Meta Platforms has hired a team of engineers from Oslo who were previously working on artificial intelligence (AI) networking technology at Graphcore, a British chip company. The move will strengthen Meta’s infrastructure team and help support AI and machine learning at scale in its data centers. Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, is increasingly reliant on AI technology to target advertising, select posts for its apps’ feeds, and remove banned content from its platforms. The company is also rushing to release generative AI products that can create human-like writing, art, and other content, which is viewed as the next big growth area for tech companies.
The 10 employees who joined Meta in February or March of this year previously worked on AI-specific networking technology at Graphcore, which develops computer chips and systems optimized for AI work. Meta declined to say what the team would work on at the company. Graphcore closed its Oslo office in October 2022, as part of a broader restructuring, as it struggled to compete against US-based firms like Nvidia and Advanced Micro Devices in the market for AI chips.
Meta is already designing several types of chips to speed up and maximize efficiency for its AI work, including a network chip that performs an air traffic control function for servers. Efficient networking is especially useful for modern AI systems, which are far too large to fit onto a single computing chip and must be split up over many chips strung together. Nvidia, AMD, and Intel all make network chips to help keep data moving smoothly within those computing clusters.
In addition to its network chip, Meta is designing a complex computing chip to train AI models and perform inference, a process in which trained models make judgments and generate responses to prompts, although it does not expect the chip to be ready until around 2025.
Graphcore, one of the UK’s most valuable tech startups, was once seen as a promising potential challenger to Nvidia’s commanding lead in the market for AI chip systems. However, it faced a setback in 2020 when Microsoft scrapped an early deal to buy Graphcore’s chips for its Azure cloud computing platform. Instead, Microsoft used Nvidia’s GPUs to build the massive infrastructure powering OpenAI, which Microsoft also backs. Sequoia, a venture capital firm, has since written down its investment in Graphcore to zero, although it remains on the company’s board.