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Intel to integrate programmable components into standard Xeon processors

Intel Corp. has announced plans to integrate programmable logic from eASIC into its future standard Xeon processors. Programmable logic will allow big server customers to add their own features into Xeon central processing units in order to speed up security, big data and other applications.

In a bid to offer a custom Xeon-based solution today, Intel has to either integrate an FPGA [field programmable gate array] chip into Xeon packaging (i.e., place an additional IC onto the same piece of substrate with Xeon) or incorporate custom logic into Xeon processors. While both methods work for very large customers of Intel, they are not suitable for smaller companies, who buy standard Xeon chips. Integration of eASIC programmable technology into future Xeon central processing units will allow smaller companies to add custom features to their CPUs themselves.

eASIC’s logic combines programmability of FPGAs with performance and flexibility of a dedicated ASIC [application-specific integrated circuit] at a fraction of the power used by FPGAs, according to the developer. eASIC’s tech will help Intel’s partners to make a particular application or workload run dramatically faster than on general-purpose hardware. The new parts will enable acceleration of up to two times that of a field programmable gate array (FPGA) for workloads like security and big data analytics while also speeding the time to market for custom application specific integrated circuit (ASIC) development by as much as 50 per cent, according to Intel.

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“Having the ability to highly customize our solutions for a given workload will not only make the specific application run faster, but also help accelerate the growth of exciting new applications like visual search,” said Diane Bryant, senior vice president and general manager of Intel’s data center group. “This announcement helps broaden our portfolio of customized products to provide our customers with the flexibility and performance they need.”

This collaboration is part of Intel’s strategy to incorporate reprogrammable technology with Intel Xeon processors to greatly improve performance, power and cost. Unfortunately, Intel did not reveal which of its future Xeon chips will integrate eASIC’s technology. What is known is that before this happens Intel and eASIC will have develop appropriate circuits using Intel’s process technology.

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KitGuru Says: Intel continues to add flexibility to its processors in the light of imminent threat from ARM-based server-class system-on-chips. It will be interesting to see whether the move will be a success.

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