Group Forms to Take On Intel in Data Centers
Several of the biggest companies that provide semiconductors for data centers or interconnect for those integrated circuits (ICs) -- and aren't Intel -- have banded together to define interconnect that would be common among different processors and the FPGA accelerators with which those processors get paired.
Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (NYSE: AMD), ARM Ltd. , Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. , IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM), Mellanox Technologies Ltd. (Nasdaq: MLNX), Qualcomm Technologies Inc., a subsidiary of Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM), and Xilinx Inc. (Nasdaq: XLNX) are collaborating on a specification for a single interconnect format that would make it so that ARM, Power and x86 based processors could be used interchangeably with FPGA accelerators.
The resulting interconnect is intended to ensure that different processors can coherently share data with accelerators. It would also enable heterogeneous computing environments, should anyone want to go that route. The group calls it Cache Coherent Interconnect for Accelerators (CCIX).
At present, Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) owns nearly the entire market for data center processors. Its acquisition of Altera gained Intel control over a source of FPGAs, now commonly used to accelerate data center processors.
With Altera in Intel's pocket, any processor vendor who wants to compete with Intel for data center business has to find an FPGA partner, and Xilinx is by far the largest of the remaining handful of independents.
Light Reading caught up with Xilinx Director of Wired Communications Gilles Garcia at the Big Communications Event in Austin, Texas, and asked him about competing with Intel and Altera. He said, "This is not any company against anyone else. All we want is to open up options. With x86 as part of it, it will be the whole ecosystem involved."
CCIX, as the partners in the endeavor explain, will allow FPGA accelerators to access and process data irrespective of where it resides, without the need for complex programming environments. This will enable both off-load and bump-in-the-wire inline application acceleration while leveraging existing server ecosystems and form factors, thereby lowering software barriers and improving total cost of ownership (TCO) of accelerated systems.
"CCIX enables greater performance and connectivity capabilities over existing interconnects, and actually paves the road to the next generation CPU -- Accelerator -- Network standard interface," said Gilad Shainer, vice president of marketing at Mellanox. "With an anticipated broad ecosystem support of the CCIX standard, data centers will now be able to optimize their data usage, thereby achieving world-leading applications efficiency and scale."
— Brian Santo, Senior Editor, Components, T&M, Light Reading