South Korean start-up Rebellions has launched an artificial intelligence (AI) chip in a bid to win government contracts and compete with global leader Nvidia Corp. The company’s ATOM chip is the latest Korean attempt to challenge Nvidia in the hardware that powers the AI technology.
Nvidia currently dominates the high-end AI chip market with a share of around 86% of the computing power of the world’s six biggest cloud services as of December 2021. The South Korean government aims to invest more than $800m over the next five years in a bid to lift the market share of Korean AI chips in domestic data centres from essentially zero to 80% by 2030.
Rebellions’ ATOM is designed to excel at running computer vision and chatbot AI applications such as ChatGPT, consuming only about 20% of the power of an Nvidia A100 chip on those tasks. A100 is the most popular chip for AI workloads, powerful enough to “train” AI models. ATOM, designed by Rebellions and manufactured by Korean giant Samsung Electronics, does not do training.
The South Korean government is investing heavily in its semiconductor industry and is rare in singling out AI chips for a concentrated push. Seoul will put out a notice this month for two data centres, called neural processing unit farms, with only domestic chipmakers allowed to bid. Rebellions will seek to participate in the government project in a consortium with KT Corp, a big Korean telecom, cloud and data centre operator, in the hopes of weaning Nvidia customers off the US supplier.
The market for AI chips is expected to grow, and Rebellions’ entry will help in the development of domestic technology. “The cooperation between KT and Rebellions will allow us to have an ‘AI full stack’ that encompasses software and hardware based on domestic technology,” said KT vice president Bae Han-chul.