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AI Centre Stage! – Highlights and Reflections, Intel Innovation 2023

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AI Centre Stage! - Highlights and Reflections, Intel Innovation 2023

At the third annual Intel Innovation event, it was AI that took the attention spotlight! – with Intel demonstrating significant strides in integrating artificial intelligence with hardware and software development – from demonstrating 3 x faster model training on Gaudi-2, right through to Intel’s Large Language Model (LLM) –as-a-service.

One of the key announcements from CEO Pat Gelsinger was the AI PC, powered by Intel Core Ultra processors and featuring a Neural Processing Unit (NPU), slated for launch on December 14th 2023. In this piece, I take a look at what we saw at Intel Innovation, and in particular, what Meteor Lake means for the democratisation of AI, a cause close to heart.

Innovation at Intel: Tech’s 5 Superpowers

A key theme emerging from the Intel Innovation event is that the technological era of today is prominently shaped by five pivotal tech superpowers. And these are not merely altering our world but rather, reshaping it, influencing both business and society and crafting efficient, distributed, and cloud-aware solutions. We can think of these five superpowers as:

  • Web and cloud-native development: emphasizes rapid innovation and the agility to adapt to changes, thereby steering the future of business and society.

  • Resource management: efficiency and waste reduction, and a focus on maximizing and optimizing resources, embodying the principle of achieving more with less.

  • Edge-as-a-service: bringing cloud capabilities to the edge, facilitating data processing closer to its generation point, which reduces latency, enhances performance and enables crucial real-time insights and actions.

  • Distributed cloud computing: leveraging the cloud to distribute workloads across various locations, enhancing scalability and reliability and enabling solutions that are not just cloud-aware but edge-to-cloud aware.

  • Secure and confident computing: ensures solutions are secure, reliable, and trustworthy by embedding confidence into solutions by design

These five superpowers are supported by three foundational pillars: openness, choice, and trust. In essence, regardless of where you are in your AI journey, the Intel Corporation ecosystem presents something valuable for you, and you can harness these five superpowers to navigate through numerous use cases and impacts across various verticals too.

One example is Intel’s Project Strata, set to launch in 2024, which scales the essential infrastructure for intelligent edge and hybrid AI, uniting an ecosystem of Intel and third-party vertical applications. The Project Strata solution will empower developers to construct, deploy, operate, manage, connect, and secure distributed edge infrastructure and applications.

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Generative AI and LLM Advances

Generative AI and large language models (LLMs) are not merely altering our interaction with technology but are revolutionizing our world, impacting both business and societal spheres. The recent Intel innovation event underscored this by focusing on the enablement of a variety of use cases, particularly emphasizing the development of an open, affordable, and optimized training and inference platform ecosystem.

In one demonstration, the capabilities of Intel’s novel LLM-as-a-Service (LLMaaS) were highlighted – this all designed to enable developers to effortlessly deploy, refine, and personalize Intel-optimized Large-Language Models using Gaudi 2 through the Intel Developer Cloud. Via the LLMaaS, developers will gain new capabilities. Indeed, Intel demonstrated a comprehensive pipeline for integrating LLM applications and how it provides both peak performance and cost advantages with Intel’s Gaudi 2.

Additionally, the expansion of AI and XPUs at scale is also broadening the potential applications of artificial intelligence, facilitating its application in more innovative and diverse areas. The progress in developer support, especially through the newly-announced Intel Developer Cloud, is enabling developers globally to create more advanced and efficient applications and systems.

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What’s Inside Meteor Lake and Intel Core Ultra?

This brings us onto one of the biggest themes from Intel Innovation: the forthcoming processors, code-named Meteor Lake, which are poised to revolutionize the consumer market and democratise AI with their dedicated neural processing unit (NPU), a feature designed to bolster AI-driven workloads. 

Branded Intel Core Ultra, these chips, set to launch on December 14, are not just a technological advancement but a stride into a new era where AI significantly alters and enhances the PC experience by synergizing the capabilities of the cloud and PC. 

The processors promise a power-efficient performance, courtesy of the advanced 7nm Intel 4 process technology, and an upgraded integrated GPU, powered by Intel Arc graphics architecture, which could potentially make them the standout processors of 2023, especially for systems that do not require a dedicated GPU.

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The Core Ultra, a notable member of this new chip series, is Intel’s inaugural consumer CPU to incorporate a multi-chiplet module (MCM) design, which allows for a more adaptable chip development by using two or more silicon slices, or dies, bonded together microscopically. 

What Meteor Lake Means

The launch of Intel’s Meteor Lake is not merely an innovation; it’s a cutting-edge tool designed to make AI not only more accessible but also an empowering force for people and businesses globally, with application benefits across business and society.

Supporting this, we saw the introduction of the 2023.1 version of Intel’s OpenVINO AI toolkit, optimized for the NPU in the Intel Core Ultra processor, and which is set to facilitate the practical development of AI applications for PCs, making it both accessible and attractive to developers and consumers alike. 

This was exemplified in a demonstration using an Acer Swift laptop, where the Core Ultra chip efficiently powered a Stable Diffusion generative AI app, transforming a basic photo into a parallaxing desktop wallpaper in under a minute, showcasing potential applications in generative AI, multimedia, device personalization, and settings controls.

There’s a palpable excitement as we delve into a technological breakthrough poised to democratize AI technology in this unprecedented approach!

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Intel’s Innovation Supports Key Future IT Tenets

We’re now seeing the formidable power of AI at our fingertips – irrespective of the technical know-how – where AI isn’t reserved for tech giants or enterprises alone. With Meteor Lake, that world is now no longer a distant dream but rather an accessible reality. 

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But for CIOs, CTOs, developers and beyond it also opens up a new frontier of possibilities, enabling the creation of AI systems that can innovate autonomously, solving complex problems and generating new ideas.

That said, the advancement of technology must always be approached with a conscientious perspective, to make sure we progress ethically. The Intel innovation event and Intel Labs have demonstrated a well-established commitment to ethical AI development, helping to ensure that AI technology is developed and utilized responsibly and ethically. 

This includes a priority on secure, confidential AI – through, for example, Intel’s Trust Authority, a new portfolio of security services – including an ISO-certified attestation service. Clearly, there’s a recognition of the importance of data security and baked-in security and trustworthiness by design right across all AI advancements.

This collective approach within the ecosystem aims to progressively change the world through each technological advancement, ensuring innovation is balanced with ethical and secure practices – at the same time.

About the Author

A highly experienced chief technology officer, professor in advanced technologies, and a global strategic advisor on digital transformation, Sally Eaves specialises in the application of emergent technologies, notably AI, 5G, cloud, security, and IoT disciplines, for business and IT transformation, alongside social impact at scale, especially from sustainability and DEI perspectives.

An international keynote speaker and author, Sally was an inaugural recipient of the Frontier Technology and Social Impact award, presented at the United Nations, and has been described as the “torchbearer for ethical tech”, founding Aspirational Futures to enhance inclusion, diversity, and belonging in the technology space and beyond. Sally is also the chair for the Global Cyber Trust at GFCYBER.

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TECHNOLOGY

Next-gen chips, Amazon Q, and speedy S3

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AWS re:Invent, which has been taking place from November 27 and runs to December 1, has had its usual plethora of announcements: a total of 21 at time of print.

Perhaps not surprisingly, given the huge potential impact of generative AI – ChatGPT officially turns one year old today – a lot of focus has been on the AI side for AWS’ announcements, including a major partnership inked with NVIDIA across infrastructure, software, and services.

Yet there has been plenty more announced at the Las Vegas jamboree besides. Here, CloudTech rounds up the best of the rest:

Next-generation chips

This was the other major AI-focused announcement at re:Invent: the launch of two new chips, AWS Graviton4 and AWS Trainium2, for training and running AI and machine learning (ML) models, among other customer workloads. Graviton4 shapes up against its predecessor with 30% better compute performance, 50% more cores and 75% more memory bandwidth, while Trainium2 delivers up to four times faster training than before and will be able to be deployed in EC2 UltraClusters of up to 100,000 chips.

The EC2 UltraClusters are designed to ‘deliver the highest performance, most energy efficient AI model training infrastructure in the cloud’, as AWS puts it. With it, customers will be able to train large language models in ‘a fraction of the time’, as well as double energy efficiency.

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As ever, AWS offers customers who are already utilising these tools. Databricks, Epic and SAP are among the companies cited as using the new AWS-designed chips.

Zero-ETL integrations

AWS announced new Amazon Aurora PostgreSQL, Amazon DynamoDB, and Amazon Relational Database Services (Amazon RDS) for MySQL integrations with Amazon Redshift, AWS’ cloud data warehouse. The zero-ETL integrations – eliminating the need to build ETL (extract, transform, load) data pipelines – make it easier to connect and analyse transactional data across various relational and non-relational databases in Amazon Redshift.

A simple example of how zero-ETL functions can be seen is in a hypothetical company which stores transactional data – time of transaction, items bought, where the transaction occurred – in a relational database, but use another analytics tool to analyse data in a non-relational database. To connect it all up, companies would previously have to construct ETL data pipelines which are a time and money sink.

The latest integrations “build on AWS’s zero-ETL foundation… so customers can quickly and easily connect all of their data, no matter where it lives,” the company said.

Amazon S3 Express One Zone

AWS announced the general availability of Amazon S3 Express One Zone, a new storage class purpose-built for customers’ most frequently-accessed data. Data access speed is up to 10 times faster and request costs up to 50% lower than standard S3. Companies can also opt to collocate their Amazon S3 Express One Zone data in the same availability zone as their compute resources.  

Companies and partners who are using Amazon S3 Express One Zone include ChaosSearch, Cloudera, and Pinterest.

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Amazon Q

A new product, and an interesting pivot, again with generative AI at its core. Amazon Q was announced as a ‘new type of generative AI-powered assistant’ which can be tailored to a customer’s business. “Customers can get fast, relevant answers to pressing questions, generate content, and take actions – all informed by a customer’s information repositories, code, and enterprise systems,” AWS added. The service also can assist companies building on AWS, as well as companies using AWS applications for business intelligence, contact centres, and supply chain management.

Customers cited as early adopters include Accenture, BMW and Wunderkind.

Want to learn more about cybersecurity and the cloud from industry leaders? Check out Cyber Security & Cloud Expo taking place in Amsterdam, California, and London. Explore other upcoming enterprise technology events and webinars powered by TechForge here.

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TECHNOLOGY

HCLTech and Cisco create collaborative hybrid workplaces

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Digital comms specialist Cisco and global tech firm HCLTech have teamed up to launch Meeting-Rooms-as-a-Service (MRaaS).

Available on a subscription model, this solution modernises legacy meeting rooms and enables users to join meetings from any meeting solution provider using Webex devices.

The MRaaS solution helps enterprises simplify the design, implementation and maintenance of integrated meeting rooms, enabling seamless collaboration for their globally distributed hybrid workforces.

Rakshit Ghura, senior VP and Global head of digital workplace services, HCLTech, said: “MRaaS combines our consulting and managed services expertise with Cisco’s proficiency in Webex devices to change the way employees conceptualise, organise and interact in a collaborative environment for a modern hybrid work model.

“The common vision of our partnership is to elevate the collaboration experience at work and drive productivity through modern meeting rooms.”

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Alexandra Zagury, VP of partner managed and as-a-Service Sales at Cisco, said: “Our partnership with HCLTech helps our clients transform their offices through cost-effective managed services that support the ongoing evolution of workspaces.

“As we reimagine the modern office, we are making it easier to support collaboration and productivity among workers, whether they are in the office or elsewhere.”

Cisco’s Webex collaboration devices harness the power of artificial intelligence to offer intuitive, seamless collaboration experiences, enabling meeting rooms with smart features such as meeting zones, intelligent people framing, optimised attendee audio and background noise removal, among others.

Want to learn more about cybersecurity and the cloud from industry leaders? Check out Cyber Security & Cloud Expo taking place in Amsterdam, California, and London. Explore other upcoming enterprise technology events and webinars powered by TechForge here.

Tags: Cisco, collaboration, HCLTech, Hybrid, meetings

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Canonical releases low-touch private cloud MicroCloud

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Canonical has announced the general availability of MicroCloud, a low-touch, open source cloud solution. MicroCloud is part of Canonical’s growing cloud infrastructure portfolio.

It is purpose-built for scalable clusters and edge deployments for all types of enterprises. It is designed with simplicity, security and automation in mind, minimising the time and effort to both deploy and maintain it. Conveniently, enterprise support for MicroCloud is offered as part of Canonical’s Ubuntu Pro subscription, with several support tiers available, and priced per node.

MicroClouds are optimised for repeatable and reliable remote deployments. A single command initiates the orchestration and clustering of various components with minimal involvement by the user, resulting in a fully functional cloud within minutes. This simplified deployment process significantly reduces the barrier to entry, putting a production-grade cloud at everyone’s fingertips.

Juan Manuel Ventura, head of architectures & technologies at Spindox, said: “Cloud computing is not only about technology, it’s the beating heart of any modern industrial transformation, driving agility and innovation. Our mission is to provide our customers with the most effective ways to innovate and bring value; having a complexity-free cloud infrastructure is one important piece of that puzzle. With MicroCloud, the focus shifts away from struggling with cloud operations to solving real business challenges” says

In addition to seamless deployment, MicroCloud prioritises security and ease of maintenance. All MicroCloud components are built with strict confinement for increased security, with over-the-air transactional updates that preserve data and roll back on errors automatically. Upgrades to newer versions are handled automatically and without downtime, with the mechanisms to hold or schedule them as needed.

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With this approach, MicroCloud caters to both on-premise clouds but also edge deployments at remote locations, allowing organisations to use the same infrastructure primitives and services wherever they are needed. It is suitable for business-in-branch office locations or industrial use inside a factory, as well as distributed locations where the focus is on replicability and unattended operations.

Cedric Gegout, VP of product at Canonical, said: “As data becomes more distributed, the infrastructure has to follow. Cloud computing is now distributed, spanning across data centres, far and near edge computing appliances. MicroCloud is our answer to that.

“By packaging known infrastructure primitives in a portable and unattended way, we are delivering a simpler, more prescriptive cloud experience that makes zero-ops a reality for many Industries.“

MicroCloud’s lightweight architecture makes it usable on both commodity and high-end hardware, with several ways to further reduce its footprint depending on your workload needs. In addition to the standard Ubuntu Server or Desktop, MicroClouds can be run on Ubuntu Core – a lightweight OS optimised for the edge. With Ubuntu Core, MicroClouds are a perfect solution for far-edge locations with limited computing capabilities. Users can choose to run their workloads using Kubernetes or via system containers. System containers based on LXD behave similarly to traditional VMs but consume fewer resources while providing bare-metal performance.

Coupled with Canonical’s Ubuntu Pro + Support subscription, MicroCloud users can benefit from an enterprise-grade open source cloud solution that is fully supported and with better economics. An Ubuntu Pro subscription offers security maintenance for the broadest collection of open-source software available from a single vendor today. It covers over 30k packages with a consistent security maintenance commitment, and additional features such as kernel livepatch, systems management at scale, certified compliance and hardening profiles enabling easy adoption for enterprises. With per-node pricing and no hidden fees, customers can rest assured that their environment is secure and supported without the expensive price tag typically associated with cloud solutions.

Want to learn more about cybersecurity and the cloud from industry leaders? Check out Cyber Security & Cloud Expo taking place in Amsterdam, California, and London. Explore other upcoming enterprise technology events and webinars powered by TechForge here.

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Tags: automation, Canonical, MicroCloud, private cloud

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