Sometime next year Intel will release a chip that will be the first to combine its Xeon processors with Altera’s programmable chips. Around 18 months back, the chip maker first announced it was working on such a product.
Super 7 to be Intel first clients
“We’ll be shipping it to the largest cloud service providers in Q1 so they can begin tuning their algorithms,” said senior vice president of Intel’s Data Center Group, Diane Bryant, while speaking at the Structure Conference in San Francisco.
Altera is engaged in the production of field programmable gate arrays or FPGAs. These chips can be reprogrammed after manufacturing, and Altera is supporting Intel in this endeavor. In late August, the chip maker announced plans to acquire Altera.
The Super 7 companies will be the early recipients of the chips as they run the biggest data centers in the world, says a report from the Fortune. Owing to their mammoth size, they also get access to Intel’s technology before other companies. These big firms are: Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Alibaba, Baidu and Tencent.
Advantage of FPGA chips
Specialty applications generally make use of such chips, but they have also been widely used in the servers that run massive data centers. According to an estimate from Intel, 30% of data center servers will run on FGPAs by the year 2020. Bryant, one of Fortune’s Most Powerful Women, said, “Combining Xeon with FPGAs, gives Intel a more powerful and programmable, chip that can plug into existing Xeon slots.”
Intel chips will help tech firms such as Microsoft and PayPal in running search and transaction algorithms that are highly customizable and dynamic.
FPGAs are programmed to run a particular algorithm, and at times they can be more efficient than general-purpose CPUs in terms of performance-per-watt. Microsoft noted it made successful use of FPGAs to speed up the performance of its Bing search engine. These chips can be used for many other types of workloads.
Apart from Intel, others are eying FPGAs. Both Qualcomm and IBM have partnered with Xilinx, which is Altera’s main rival, to combine FPGAs with their chip architectures. The former is developing an ARM server processor while the latter makes the Power processor.