Secret Apple 'Project ACDC' to pioneer AI chips for data centers

Posted:
in General Discussion edited May 7

Amidst a high-stakes AI race, Apple is forging ahead with "Project ACDC," a secret initiative recently come to light that develops proprietary AI chips for data centers.

Rows of server racks in a data center illuminated by blue LED lights creating a corridor effect.
Apple launches 'Project ACDC' to pioneer AI chips for data centers



Under the internal name "Project ACDC," Apple is developing Apple Silicon designed specifically for server farms dedicated to AI processing. The company aims to optimize AI applications within its data centers for future versions of its platforms.

Apple has been a leader in designing proprietary chips for its devices, including iPhones, iPads, Apple Watches, and Mac computers. The shift towards creating server-specific AI chips is a natural extension of its expertise, as reported by The Wall Street Journal.

The company has hinted at revealing new AI products and advancements at its upcoming Worldwide Developer Conference in June. For example, the next version of Safari may feature user interface enhancements, improved content blocking capabilities, and an innovative AI-driven feature called Intelligent Search.

Siri is set to get a similar upgrade, sources indicate, as Apple plans to enhance integration with its Messages app. In upcoming versions of Apple's operating systems, the company's AI may analyze message content to generate summaries.

The actions of rivals like Microsoft and Meta have heightened the urgency of developing these AI capabilities. These companies have rapidly oriented their operations around generative AI following the public impact of OpenAI's ChatGPT.

Microsoft, in particular, has benefited from its early and close partnership with OpenAI, recently surpassing Apple as the world's most valuable company.

There is a growing impatience among Apple investors, driven by perceptions of the company lagging behind its competitors in AI innovation. However, the potential impact of Apple's AI advancements on its market valuation can't be overlooked.

Apple's move comes when AI technology becomes pivotal in corporate strategies across various industries. As companies like Amazon, Google, and others also intensify their focus on AI, the technology's role in business continues to evolve, touching everything from cloud computing to consumer electronics.


Apple's moves into AI territory



Apple is significantly increasing its investment in the artificial intelligence sector, planning to allocate over $5 billion to AI server enhancements over the next two years. The company aims to match the technological capabilities of industry leaders like Microsoft and Meta by acquiring tens of thousands of AI server units.

iPhone with Siri logo lying on a computer keyboard, showcasing a mix of technology devices.
These enhancements are designed to bolster AI functionalities in devices running iOS 18



TSMC is advancing the development of 3-nanometer processors, with Apple reportedly securing the entire production capacity for these chips. Initially, it was assumed that Apple would utilize this technology for the newest iterations of its A-series chips in iPhones and M-series chips in Macs.

However, recent revelations from a leaker known as "Phone Chip Expert" on the Chinese social media platform Weibo suggest that Apple is actively working on a specialized artificial intelligence processor. According to the source, mass production of this AI chip is expected to commence in the latter half of 2025.

Apple's strategy includes owning and operating its own hardware for better security and design flexibility, differentiating it from competitors who may rely on cloud-based services.

Additionally, the next-generation M4 and A18 chips are expected to feature significantly upgraded neural engines. These enhancements are designed to bolster AI functionalities in devices running iOS 18, and they may appear in the iPad event on Tuesday.

Rumor Score: Possible

Read on AppleInsider

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 13
    danoxdanox Posts: 3,043member
    The growing impatience among Apple users/investors is Apple leaving products/money on the table, real product possibilities big screen iMacs, Mac M2/M3 servers, and the continued development of Mac Pro's all may seem mundane when compared to the current AI hype or the Apple Vision, but some unglamorous computer trucks need to be built too the latest financials certainly indicate that. Every little bit counts towards moving Apple tech forward in the release of high quality products to support all users.
    edited May 6 watto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 13
    slow n easyslow n easy Posts: 355member
    All I have to say about it is that it’s got a pretty cool code-name.
    watto_cobrassfe11
  • Reply 3 of 13
    Though the servers won't have a high speed type-C IO controller because its been....thunderstruck.

    All I have to say about it is that it’s got a pretty cool code-name.

    watto_cobraentropysFileMakerFeller
  • Reply 4 of 13
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 7,801member
    IMO, this is long overdue but definitely the way to go if the rumours prove true.

    I would be surprised if they limit this to the chips though. It's really about integration of the SoCs with everything else, especially the interconnects, memory and storage side of things. Then there are the frameworks on the software side to squeeze as much as posible out of the chips.

    A welcome move. 
    40domissfe11FileMakerFeller
  • Reply 5 of 13
    blastdoorblastdoor Posts: 3,367member
    I’ve been saying for years that apple should make their own server chips for their own data centers that are also used in pro desktops.

     The typical knee jerk response is to bring up Xserve. But Xserve used intel chips and was sold in competition with other servers running Intel chips. That’s a totally different thing.

    The point of rolling their own for internal use is to avoid paying billions to intel and nvidia for the servers apple uses themselves. Apple can then use their servers for premium iCloud services.

    plus, this provides economies of scale that benefit the pro desktop business.

    awesome all around 
    watto_cobra40domissfe11muthuk_vanalingamroundaboutnowdanoxFileMakerFeller
  • Reply 6 of 13
    michelb76michelb76 Posts: 646member
    danox said:
    The growing impatience among Apple users/investors is Apple leaving products/money on the table, real product possibilities big screen iMacs, Mac M2/M3 servers, and the continued development of Mac Pro's all may seem mundane when compared to the current AI hype or the Apple Vision, but some unglamorous computer trucks need to be built too the latest financials certainly indicate that. Every little bit counts towards moving Apple tech forward in the release of high quality products to support all users.
    I think Apple's models are very well suited to their target demographics. Big screen iMacs and hugely expensive Mac Pro's won't be bestsellers, and the AI hype with big personal GPU's will be short-lived when every model moves to the cloud anyway.
  • Reply 7 of 13
    40domi40domi Posts: 138member
    Smart move by Apple if true!
    ssfe11
  • Reply 8 of 13
    jellybellyjellybelly Posts: 126member
    Perhaps Apple has had its sights set on competing with NVIDIA all along.  Not only might the best AI chips be reserved for Apple servers, but powerful GPU component of Apple Si may compete favorably with NVIDIA. 

    A lesser competitive chip line might be sold to 3rd parties like Microsoft, Google and other cloud providers and automakers to use  competitively against NVIDIA.  

    Meanwhile Apple reserves the best chips for themselves on their devices and on their servers.

    I say this as the only knock on ASi has been  NVIDIA dedicated GPUs beating ASi integrated GPUs. That would seem a gap worth filling and exceeding. The bonus is adding chip sale as an enterprise albeit competitive yet not as good as chips reserved for Apple’s own use. 
  • Reply 9 of 13
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 24,340member
    Perhaps Apple has had its sights set on competing with NVIDIA all along.  Not only might the best AI chips be reserved for Apple servers, but powerful GPU component of Apple Si may compete favorably with NVIDIA. 

    A lesser competitive chip line might be sold to 3rd parties like Microsoft, Google and other cloud providers and automakers to use  competitively against NVIDIA.  

    Meanwhile Apple reserves the best chips for themselves on their devices and on their servers.

    I say this as the only knock on ASi has been  NVIDIA dedicated GPUs beating ASi integrated GPUs. That would seem a gap worth filling and exceeding. The bonus is adding chip sale as an enterprise albeit competitive yet not as good as chips reserved for Apple’s own use. 
    Google, Microsoft, and Amazon would not desire nor need Apple's chips, assuming they decide to pursue it as the rumors indicate. Those companies are already using their own in-house designed AI-focused server chips, in some cases matching or exceeding what NVIDIA's H100 offers.
    https://www.theverge.com/2024/4/9/24125074/google-axion-arm-cpu-ai-chips-cloud-server-data-center
    https://www.techradar.com/pro/google-is-rapidly-turning-into-a-formidable-opponent-to-bff-nvidia-the-tpu-v5p-ai-chip-powering-its-hypercomputer-is-faster-and-has-more-memory-and-bandwidth-than-ever-before-beating-even-the-mighty-h100

    In any event, and again assuming Apple actually follows though with an AI server chip for its data centers, it won't be in competition with NVIDIA. What Apple envisions is a chipset to run AI services, while NIDIA's is for both training and running an LLM for Generative AI.

    BTW, Project ACDC is short for Apple Chips in Data Center. Creative :)
    edited May 7 muthuk_vanalingamroundaboutnow
  • Reply 10 of 13
    charlesatlascharlesatlas Posts: 403member
    AI server chips. The M4 chip just unveiled. We're almost there. Another year or two and M5 will be committed as the technologies converge. It will start calling us "nonessential personnel" and say, "This unit must survive." Did they save any of Steve's engrams to impress on the chips?
    blastdoorgatorguy
  • Reply 11 of 13
    blastdoorblastdoor Posts: 3,367member
    AI server chips. The M4 chip just unveiled. We're almost there. Another year or two and M5 will be committed as the technologies converge. It will start calling us "nonessential personnel" and say, "This unit must survive." Did they save any of Steve's engrams to impress on the chips?
    My regards to Captain Dunsel. 
  • Reply 12 of 13
    commentzillacommentzilla Posts: 734member
    This is a good opportunity for them to offer a server again and a larger chip to go with it for both an Xserve and the MacPro, since the volume will be there to support it due to internal requirements for the data centers.
  • Reply 13 of 13
    FileMakerFellerFileMakerFeller Posts: 1,561member
    All I have to say about it is that it’s got a pretty cool code-name.
    I'm more inclined to believe that the codename is "ASDC" (Apple Silicon in Data Centres) and someone misheard it. Way back in the 1990s there were rumours of a project named "Sian" and it turned out to be "Cyan" (a successor to Project Blue).

    But ACDC is indeed the cooler codename. And if Apple end up making a server again they could market it with the slogan "Back in (Space) Black."
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