Intel's first server chip with performance-boosting FPGA to ship early next year

The Xeon processor will be aimed initially at hyperscale cloud providers like Microsoft and Google

Intel will ship its first Xeon server chip with a programmable FPGA from Altera in the first quarter next year, some 18 months after announcing work on the product.

FPGAs, or field programmable gate arrays, are specialty chips used to accelerate specific workloads. With Moore's Law starting to slow, some see the programmable chips as an important way to accelerate tasks like machine learning and data analytics in an energy-efficient way.

Intel announced in June last year that it was working on a Xeon part with an integrated FPGA, and on Wednesday the head of its data center group, Diane Bryant, said the chip will arrive in the first quarter next year.

Intel's Diane Bryant James Niccolai

Diane Bryant at the Structure conference in San Francisco on Wednesday

"We’ll be shipping it to the largest cloud service providers in Q1 so they can begin tuning their algorithms," she said during an on-stage interview at the Structure conference in San Francisco.

It's taken a while to get the chip to market, but the pace of work will probably increase now that Intel is buying its FPGA partner, Altera, for almost $17 billion. It announced the deal in June and said it would close in six to nine months.

Bryant didn't provide any details about the chip except to say the "footprint" will be compatible with current Xeon processors, meaning presumably that it can be a drop-in replacement for existing chips.

Programmed to run a particular algorithm, FPGAs can be more efficient than general-purpose CPUs on a performance-per-watt basis.

Microsoft has described successfully using FPGAs to speed performance of its Bing search engine, but they can be used for many types of workloads.

Using FPGAs to accelerate tasks isn’t new, but they’re usually discrete components on a motherboard, linked to the processor via PCIe. Integrating them in a dual-chip package using Intel’s QPI interconnect allows direct access to the Xeon’s on-chip cache and main memory, reducing latency.

Intel has said an integrated, dual-chip package can double the performance gain from an FPGA compared with using it as a discrete component.

It's not the only chip maker eyeing FPGAs. Qualcomm, which is developing an ARM server processor, and IBM, which makes the Power processor, have both partnered with Altera's main rival, Xilinx, to combine FPGAs with those chip architectures.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

James Niccolai

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?