Intel Breaks Up Graphics Group, Raja Koduri Moves Back to Chief Architect Role

Intel announced today that it would split its AXG graphics group to separately address the gaming and data center markets by placing it under two other business units. Raja Koduri, currently the Executive Vice President of the AXG business unit, will return to his previous role as an Intel Chief Architect:

Discrete graphics and accelerated computing are critical growth engines for Intel. With our flagship products now in production, we are evolving our structure to accelerate and scale their impact and drive go-to-market strategies with a unified voice to customers. This includes our consumer graphics teams joining our client computing group, and our accelerated computing teams joining our datacenter and AI group. In addition, Raja Koduri will return to the Intel Chief Architect role to focus on our growing efforts across CPU, GPU and AI, and accelerating high priority technical programs.”

We spoke with Intel, and the company assures us that it remains fully committed to its existing roadmap of Arc consumer discrete GPUs, meaning it intends to launch the second-gen Battlemage and third-gen Celestial gaming GPUs as planned. Those GPUs will join the recently launched Alchemist series, which will also continue to be supported.

Intel’s Raja Koduri led AXG but will now return to his previous role as an Intel Chief Architect. Koduri will work on high-performance technical programs with an eye on driving the integration of GPU, CPU, and AI architectures, a key initiative considering products like Falcon Shores and Intel’s Zettascale ambitions.

Koduri assumed his current position as leader of AXG last year, but the new role sounds similar to his original position when he arrived at Intel in 2017 after a five-year stint at AMD (and a short hiatus). As Koduri shared on Twitter yesterday, he is currently recovering from an unplanned back surgery in India and will remain there for a month before he returns to work.

The new alignment places the consumer-focused portion of the Accelerated Computing Systems and Graphics (AXG) business unit under Intel’s Client Compute Group (CCG). Intel’s CCG is responsible for developing consumer computing platforms around the company’s CPU products. Lisa Pearce, most known for her work leading the GPU teams’ software and driver divisions, will lead the AXG unit that slots in under CCG. Pearce will report to Michelle Johnston Holthaus, the current head of CCG.

The teams responsible for data center and supercomputing GPUs, like the Ponte Vecchio and Rialto Bridge products, will move to the Data Center and AI (DCAI) business unit. The GPU SoC and IP design teams will also fall under the DCAI umbrella, but they will continue to support the client graphics team. Jeff McVeigh, currently the VP & GM of the Super Compute Group, will serve as the interim leader of this AXG team as Intel searches for a permanent leader. McVeigh will report to the current head of DCAI, Sandra Rivera.

In Q1 of this year, Intel reorganized its financial reporting into six business units. Despite the hierarchical adjustments, AXG will continue to report its revenue as one of the six Intel business units in the upcoming January earnings call.

Naturally, this realignment of the GPU group will raise concerns that Intel plans to sunset its consumer gaming GPU business. The bar for a new GPU maker is high — Intel is the first new discrete GPU player in 25 years — and it’s no secret that the Arc gaming GPUs arrived to market later than expected, so they face a tough competitive environment that finds them trailing Nvidia and AMD’s products and unable to take a place among the best GPUs. Much of that disparity has been blamed on lackluster launch-day drivers, but that has improved in recent months. The market conditions also aren’t favorable because of a GPU oversupply that comes after several years of crypto-driven shortages.

These factors have all contributed to a recent wave of speculation that claimed Intel would axe the consumer GPU division. Still, the company tells us it remains fully committed to its existing and future lineup of gaming graphics cards. In addition, Pat Gelsinger has communicated a long-term desire to develop GPUs, recently saying, “When I left Intel 12 years ago, it was the only major ‘not done’ on my list of things that I wanted to finish. Well, I’m back, and we are now going to get it done” during his announcement of the launch of the company’s Arc gaming GPUs.

Intel says its consumer GPU teams are now fully engaged in getting Battlemage finished and released. Considering the delays with Alchemist, we could potentially see Arc B-series (Battlemage) release as early as 2023.

However, Intel’s Tom Petersen has avoided giving any firm release details, stating that it “learned its lesson” with the initial Arc rollout. While the Arc A770, A750, and A380 had a rough launch, things have improved, but, at best, they still compete with products that came out two years ago. There’s plenty of speculation that Battlemage could be the make-or-break point for Intel’s consumer GPU division, and it’s reasonable to think it could be tough for Intel to justify continued investment if it doesn’t reach an inflection point in the near future.

Despite the seeming uncertainty surrounding Intel’s gaming GPU business, there’s no doubt that the company’s data center and HPC-geared GPUs will remain a key strategic asset to address the AI market. Data centers are the land of high margins, and supercomputers have been opting for increased numbers of GPUs over CPUs for some time. As such, Intel needs a competitive data center GPU solution to compete with the likes of Nvidia and AMD, and the underlying IP to power future architectures like Falcon Shores.

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