Intel Begins Shipping Xeon Chips With FPGA Accelerators
Combining the Intel server chips with Altera's FPGAs will improve the performance-per-watt of systems running the two by 70 percent, officials say.Intel has begun shipping a development module that features the company's latest Xeon E5 server processors and programmable chips that will help customers drive performance while holding down power consumption. The multichip platform is pairing the 14-nanometer Xeon E5-2600 v4 "Broadwell" processors—launched late in March—with the Arria10 field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) from Altera. Diane Bryant, senior vice president and general manager of Intel's Data Center Group, on April 13 announced during a keynote address at the company's Intel Developer Forum (IDF) in China that the modules were shipping. Intel and other chip makers are increasingly relying on accelerators to help improve the performance and energy efficiency of their processors and speed up the workloads that run on them. Nvidia and Advanced Micro Devices offer GPU accelerators. However, the company also is now using FPGAs, which can be reprogrammed through software after they've been manufactured. They're becoming more important for cloud and Web-scale environments, where workloads can change quickly. Intel for several years had partnered with Altera to take advantage of the company's technology. Intel now has brought the company in-house, earlier this year completing the acquisition of Altera, which the chip maker bought for $16.7 billion. Intel officials have said the goal is to eventually integrate the FPGAs onto the same die as the CPU.
Intel is not only relying on FPGAs for CPU acceleration. The company also has a growing portfolio of Xeon Phi chips, which are x86-based co-processors that can act either as accelerators or as primary chips. In addition, Intel is partnering with eASIC to bring application specific integrated circuits (ASICs) to custom Xeons to be used in enterprise data centers and cloud environments for such workloads as data analytics and security. The goal is to offer customers a broad range of choices.