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Intel Upgrades Hardware

Intel To Offer Custom Xeons With Embedded FPGAs For the Data Center 80

MojoKid (1002251) writes For years, we've heard rumors that Intel was building custom chips for Google or Facebook, but these deals have always been assumed to work with standard hardware. Intel might offer a different product SKU with non-standard core counts, or a specific TDP target, or a particular amount of cache — but at the end of the day, these were standard Xeon processors. Today, it looks like that's changing for the first time — Intel is going to start embedding custom FPGAs into its own CPU silicon. The new FPGA-equipped Xeons will occupy precisely the same socket and platform as the standard, non-FPGA Xeons. Nothing will change on the customer front (BIOS updates may be required), but the chips should be drop-in compatible. The company has not stated who provided its integrated FPGA design, but Altera is a safe bet. The two companies have worked together on multiple designs and Altera (which builds FPGAs) is using Intel for its manufacturing. This move should allow Intel to market highly specialized performance hardware to customers willing to pay for it. By using FPGAs to accelerate certain specific types of workloads, Intel Xeon customers can reap higher performance for critical functions without translating the majority of their code to OpenCL or bothering to update it for GPGPU.
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Intel To Offer Custom Xeons With Embedded FPGAs For the Data Center

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  • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Thursday June 19, 2014 @01:28PM (#47274057)

    FPGAs don't do floating point very well for one and even their integer performance will never rival a GPGU either in performance, or power.

    Sure, and a hammer makes a terrible screwdriver. GPUs are specifically designed for register-to-register SIMD operations, so of course they are going to excel at that. But an FPGA is going to be better at bitstream operations, including many hashing and encryption algorithms.

  • Re:Code (Score:4, Informative)

    by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Thursday June 19, 2014 @01:32PM (#47274093) Homepage Journal

    My guess would be that the real perk is bandwidth and latency. Unless Intel really phones it in on integration, the FPGA should have about the fastest, lowest-latency, link to the CPU, possibly even some of the cache, especially if they throw in a big chunk of eDRAM, as they have for 'Iris Pro' parts, that money can buy.

    As usual, the slashdot post has the absolute worst story link. compare http://www.enterprisetech.com/... [enterprisetech.com] which gives you links to where it gets its info, namely https://communities.intel.com/... [intel.com] and http://gigaom.com/2014/06/18/i... [gigaom.com] ... the latter is the interesting link because it tells us that the FPGA will have access to main memory. I personally would presume that means it's tied into the memory controller somehow.

    Less of a "Hey, let's do this instead of GPU compute!" and more of a "It sucks that our weirdo application-specific operation is probably never going to be one of Intel or AMD's extensions to x86; but this is the closest we can get to having it added" thing.

    What I began fantasizing about immediately upon reading the article was some sort of optimizer that would semi-automatically build functional units to perform whatever function the CPU was grinding on at the moment, with some sort of recognition engine and periodic updates garnered from participating customers to help special-yet-common cases. As well, seeing how customers actually use FPGA with their products will help Intel decide what functionality to add to their next (or next+1, etc) processor.

    There are already options to add an FPGA to your Xeon system, with its own blob of RAM. Since they talk about this being fundamentally different, I'm not sure what makes sense except the idea of it being connected at the memory controller. Hopefully there will be a talk with some nice block diagrams released soon.

  • by Dogtanian ( 588974 ) on Thursday June 19, 2014 @04:20PM (#47275757) Homepage
    Intel has already come up with an Atom CPU with integrated FPGA [slashdot.org], but only for the embedded market.

    I'd already been thinking about the possibility of end-user-accessible, on-the-fly-reprogrammable FPGA functionality as part of a "regular" computer before I heard Intel had produced an integrated CPU/FPGA (though it's not clear how easily configurable the FPGA was there). I raised the issue in that previous thread and got a *very* interesting and informative response [slashdot.org] (thank you Tacvek) that pointed out some major problems with the concept of general access to such functionality.

    The issues raised there explain why Intel are unlikely to be making an easily-reconfigurable hybrid product like this available to the general public any time soon, however smart and exciting the idea sounds.

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