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50 Best Workplaces of the Year 2019

Graphcore Limited, a Semiconductor Company that Develops Accelerators for AI and Machine Learning, Goes Beyond the Limits to Achieve the Impossible

thesiliconreview-nigel-toon-co-founder-ceo-graphcore-limited-19“The Poplar framework is completely scaleable; it is a natural choice for all machine intelligence programming paradigms.”

Software has been the star of high tech over the past few decades, and it’s easy to understand why. With PCs and mobile phones, the game-changing innovations that defined this era, the architecture and software layers of the technology stack enabled several important advances. In this environment, semiconductor companies were in a difficult position. Although their innovations in chip design and fabrication enabled next-generation devices, they received only a small share of the value coming from the technology stack—about 20 to 30 percent with PCs and 10 to 20 percent with mobile.

But the story for semiconductor companies is different with the growth of artificial intelligence (AI)—typically defined as the ability of a machine to perform cognitive functions associated with human minds, such as perceiving, reasoning, and learning. Many AI applications have gained a wide following, including virtual assistants that manage our homes and facial-recognition programs that track criminals. These diverse solutions, as well as other emerging AI applications, share one common feature: a reliance on hardware as a core enabler of innovation, especially for logic and memory functions.

In light of the foregoing, we’re thrilled to present Graphcore Limited.

Graphcore is a hardware systems company developing IPU-Accelerator™ cards and IPU-Appliance™ products that will accelerate machine learning applications.

It has created a new processor, the Intelligence Processing Unit (IPU), specifically designed for artificial intelligence. The IPU’s unique architecture means developers can run current machine learning models orders of magnitude faster. More importantly, it lets AI researchers undertake entirely new types of work, not possible using current technologies, to drive the next great breakthroughs in general machine intelligence.

Graphcore was incorporated in 2016 and is headquartered in Bristol, England.

Graphcore Limited: Synopsis

Graphcore: Ac‌‍celer‌‍ating‌‍ Next Gener‌‍a‌tion AI

Graphcore’s IPU accelerators and Poplar software together make the fastest and most flexible platform for current and future machine intelligence applications, lowering the cost of AI in the cloud and datacenter, improving performance and efficiency by between 10x to 100x.

Graphcore systems excel at both training and inference. The highly parallel computational resources together with graph software tools and libraries, allows researchers to explore machine intelligence across a much broader front than current solutions. This technology lets recent success in deep learning evolve rapidly towards useful, general artificial intelligence.

Intelligence Processing Unit (IPU): Graphcore has created a completely new processor that’s the first to be specifically designed for machine intelligence workloads – an IPU that will set a new pace of innovation.

The IPU has been optimized to work efficiently on the extremely complex high-dimensional models needed for machine intelligence workloads. It emphasizes massively parallel, low-precision floating-point compute and provides much higher compute density than other solutions.

Poplar: Poplar is Graphcore’s graph programming framework for IPU accelerated platforms, designed to meet the needs of customers in advanced research teams and those working on commercial deployments in a wide range of industry sectors.

It’s a C++ framework that provides a seamless interface to standard machine learning frameworks, like Tensorflow and MXNet, so your existing applications written for Tensorflow will work out of the box on an IPU.

To support this, Poplar has a full set of drivers, application libraries and debugging and analysis tools to help tune performance and a C++ and Python interface for application development making our IPU systems quick and easy to use.

The Poplar framework is completely scaleable; it is a natural choice for all machine intelligence programming paradigms.

The Future is Coming: Graphcore is Just Bringing it Closer

Graphcore is optimistic for a future where people live healthier, more informed, more creative lives. It sees a world where technology enhances human potential and takes us into a new era of intelligence and progress that everyone can benefit from.

The company is aware that there are innovators who can build this future and it understands their ambition, and their challenges. So Graphcore has built a totally new processor which allows them to go for it. The company constantly pushes boundaries so others can do the same.

Nigel Toon | A Formidable Leader

Nigel Toon, Co-founder, serves as the Chief Executive Officer of Graphcore. Nigel was CEO of two VC-backed silicon companies before founding Graphcore; Picochip, which was sold to Mindspeed in 2012 and most recently, XMOS, in which Graphcore was incubated for two years before being established as a separate entity in 2016.

Before that, he was co-founder of Icera, a 3G cellular modem chip company, where he led Sales and Marketing and was on the Board of Directors. Later, Icera was sold to NVIDIA in 2011 for $435M.

Prior to Icera, he was Vice President and General Manager at Altera Corporation where he spent 13 years and was responsible for establishing and building the European business unit that grew to over $400m annual revenues.

He was a non-executive director at Imagination Technologies PLC until its acquisition in 2017 and is the author of three patents.

“Our IPU systems are designed to lower the cost of accelerating AI applications in cloud and enterprise datacenters to increase the performance of both training and inference by up to 100x compared to the fastest systems today.”