Microsoft might cut 50 percent of the servers related to its Bing queries due to its custom programmable chips working closely with Xeon processors of Intel. Microsoft created field-programmable gate arrays also known as FPGAs, hoping that Bing searches will speed up. The company plans to produce these in the near future.
Researchers and the Bing team worked together to test "Catapult," a programmable software or hardware fabric on over 1,600 datacenter servers which run FPGA chips from Altera and Intel Xeon processors. They aimed to check if servers enhanced by FPGA indeed offer better and faster search results for a lower price. The study showed that it did, pushing Microsoft to produce servers powered by Bing to handle customer searches in 2015.
This new approach could be important for compute-intensive services because it allows Microsoft to select which large-scale services it would speed up. All the company needs to do is add FPGA compute boards to the servers instead of buying more CPUs and hardware to run workloads.
Lime Microsystems and Altera Corp. entered into a "Strategic Cooperation Agreement" that focuses on promoting and developing programmable solutions that system designers can use to reduce costs, shorten marketing, lower power and customize designs for enterprise, key wireless infrastructure, industrial, military and even medical applications. Altera made an equity investment in Lime Microsystems.
With Altera's investment, companies will collaborate in sales, technical support and marketing all over the world. Lime and Altera will create reference designs which can be customized further for specific features and applications. Wireless application outside remote radio units and carrier grade base stations will increase the FPGA customers of Altera. Applications include small cell carrier grade infrastructure, enterprise wireless networks, software defined radio and communication systems in the military among others.
Researchers predicted that FPGA programmability might be an issue in the future. Domain-specific languages including OpenCL, Scala and FPGA-targeted tools can currently be used but more incorporated development tools will be needed in the coming 10 to 15 years.
"We conclude that distributed reconfigurable fabrics are a viable path forward as increases in server performance level off, and will be crucial at the end of Moore's Law for continued cost and capability improvements. Reconfigurability is a critical means by which hardware acceleration can keep pace with the rapid rate of change in datacenter services," said the researchers.