AI Is More Than Deep Learning

At a high level, while deep learning is a form of artificial intelligence, the converse isn't always true; an application implementing AI does not necessarily use deep learning. Many AI applications use “conventional statistical” or “traditional” machine learning. After all, Support Vector Machines, Logistic Regression, K-nearest, Naive Bayes, and decision trees still make a lot of sense to use in automating information classification, especially if you don’t have a lot of data.

For example, Conditional Random Field (CRF) is used in natural language processing, and a lot of recommendation engines are based upon Boltzman Machines, Alternate Least Square (ALS), and so on. Case in point: one of most demanding and unique benchmarks – our "big data" benchmark – uses an ALS algorithm as recommendation engine ("collaborative filtering").  

Of course, the use of neural networks – itself a whole field of study – is booming, and their use tends to dominate the latest AI applications. Neural networks are also among the most demanding workloads, requiring lots of processing power and signing expensive (and well-published) hardware contracts. All of which contrasts heavily with logistic regression, which remains the most used machine learning method, and also happens to need much less processing. 

The reason for these difference in processing power requirements is, in turn, actually pretty simple. To quote Wouter Gevaert, an AI expert at the university department I work in:

“Each Neuron in a Neural Network can be considered like a logistic regression unit. Therefore, a Neural Network is like a massive amount of logistic regressions” (When you use sigmoid as activation function) 

With all of that said, however, while neural networks are the most processing-intensive of AI technologies (especially with a large number of layers), there are several traditional machine learning techniques that also require a lot of processing power. Support Vector Machines with their complex transformations also tend to require a lot of computational time, for example. And in our Spark test, the Stanford NER system is based on a supervised CRF model using a labeled collection of English data. In that test, it has to crunch through a massive amount of unstructured text – several hundreds of gigabytes.

And of course, most of the analytical queries are still written in good old SQL. For structured and semi-structured data, for OLAP cubes etc., SQL code is still prevalent. As a single SQL query is nowhere near as parallel as Neural Networks – in many cases they are 100% sequential – the CPU is best tool for the job.

So in practice, most data (pre) processing and lots of AI software is still running on a CPU. GPUs mostly run massively parallel HPC applications and neural networks, an important market to be sure, but still only a piece of the larger AI market. This is one of the reasons why NVIDIA closed on $3 Billion of datacenter revenue last year, while Intel’s datacenter group made $20 Billion. Yes, Intel’s number includes Networking and storage. Yes, that includes several other markets than HPC and Data analytics. But still, a significant part of that revenue is going to be based upon servers that store and process data for analytics.  

Compounding this whole picture, however, is not just revenue, but opportunities for growth. NVIDIA has been seeing massive growth in the datacenter market, while Intel has only seen single digit growth. Customer needs are continuing to shift as new technologies become available; the battle for the data analytics market has begun, and it is intensifying.  

Enter the Era of AI Convolutional, Recurrent, & Scalability
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  • Drumsticks - Monday, July 29, 2019 - link

    It's an interesting, valuable take on the challenges of responding to many of the ML workloads of today with a general purpose CPU, thanks! A third party review of Intel's latest against Nvidia, and even throwing AMD in to the mix, is pretty helpful as the two companies have been going at it for a while now.

    Intel has a lot of stuff going that should make the next few years quite interesting. If they manage to follow through on the Nervana Coprocessor/NNP-I that Toms talked about, or on their discrete GPUs, they'll have a potent lineup. The execution definitely isn't guaranteed, especially given the software reliance these products will have, but if Intel really can manage to transform their product stack, and do it in the next few years, they'll be well on their way to competing in a much larger market, and defending their current one.

    OTOH, if they fail with all of them, it'll definitely be bad news for their future. They obviously won't go bankrupt (they'll continue to be larger than AMD for the foreseeable future), but it'll be exponentially harder if not impossible to get back into those markets they missed.
  • JohanAnandtech - Monday, July 29, 2019 - link

    Thanks! Indeed, Nervana coprocessors are indeed Intel's most promising technology in this area.
  • p1esk - Monday, July 29, 2019 - link

    No one in their right mind would think "gee, should I get CPU or GPU for my DL app?" More concerning for Intel should be the fact that I bought a Threadripper for my latest DL build.
  • Smell This - Monday, July 29, 2019 - link

    You gotta Radeon VII ?

    I'm thinking Intel, and to a lesser extent, nVidia, is waiting for the next shoe(s) to drop in **Big Compute** --- Cascade Lake has been left at the starting gate.

    An AMD Radeon Instinct 'cluster' on a dense specialized 'chiplet' server with hundreds of CPU cores/threads is where this train is headed ...
  • JohanAnandtech - Monday, July 29, 2019 - link

    Spinning up a GPU based instance on Amazon is much more expensive than a CPU one. So for development purposes, this question is asked.
  • p1esk - Tuesday, July 30, 2019 - link

    Then you should be answering precisely that question: which instance should I spin up? Your article does not help with that because the CPU you test is more expensive than the GPU.
  • JohnnyClueless - Monday, July 29, 2019 - link

    Really surprised Intel, and to a lesser extent AMD, are even trying to fight this battle with nVidia on these terms. It’s a lot like going to a gun fight and developing an extra sharp samurai sword rather than bringing the usual switchblade knife. The sword may be awesome, but it’s always going to be the wrong tool for the gun fight.

    IMO, a better approach to capture market share in DL/AI/HPC might be to develop a low core count (by 2019 standards) CPU that excelled at sequential single threaded performance. Something like 6-10 GHz. That would provide a huge and tangible boost to any workload that is at least partially single core frequency limited, and that is most DL/AI/HPC workloads. Leave the parallel computing to chips and devices designed to excel at such workloads!
  • Eris_Floralia - Monday, July 29, 2019 - link

    Still living in early 2000s?
  • FunBunny2 - Monday, July 29, 2019 - link

    "Something like 6-10 GHz. "

    IIRC, all the chip tried to get near that, but couldn't. it's not nice to fool Mother Nature.
  • Santoval - Monday, July 29, 2019 - link

    "Something like 6-10 GHz."
    Google "Dennard scaling" (which ended in ~2005) to find out why this is impossible, at least with silicon based MOSFET transistors (including the GAA-FET based ones of the next decade). Wikipedia has a very informative page with multiple links to various sources for even more. The gist of the end of Dennard scaling is that single core clocks higher than ~5 GHz (at a reasonable TDP of up to ~100W) are explicitly forbidden at *any* node.

    When Dennard scaling ended -in combination with the slowing down of Moore's Law- there was another, related consequence : Koomey's law started to slow down. Koomey's law is all about power efficiency, i.e. how many computations you can extract from each Wh or kWh.

    Before the early 2000s the number of computations per x unit of energy doubled on average every 1.57 years. In 2011 Koomey himself re-evaluated his law and got an average doubling of computations every 2.6 years for the previous decade, a substantial collapse of power efficiency. Since 2011 Koomey's law has obviously slowed down further.

    To make a long story short Moore's law puts a limit to the number of transistors we can fit in each mm^2, and that limit is not too far away. Dennard scaling once allowed us to raise clocks with each new node at the same TDP, and this is ancient history in computing terms. Koomey's law, finally, puts a limit to the power efficiency of our CPUs/GPUs, and this continues to slow down due to the slowing down of Moore's Law (when Moore's Law ends Koomey's law will also end, thus all three fundamental computing laws will be "dead").

    Unless we ditch silicon (and even CMOS transistors, if required) and adopt a new computing paradigm we will have neither 6 - 10 GHz clocked CPUs in a couple of decades nor will we able to speed up CPUs, GPUs and computers at all.

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