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Hot Chips cooks next-gen processors, wireless, design tech

Posted: 02 Sep 2015     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Intel  processor  FPGA  5G  AMD 

The paper marks points toward a possible next step for Microsoft's data centres. Researchers described last year at Hot Chips use of FPGAs to accelerate Bing searches. Since then, a Microsoft data centre executive described work using FGAs to accelerate networking operations.

"We started asking if it would make sense for Microsoft to put FPGAs in all its servers," said Eric S. Chung of Microsoft Research. Like Facebook, it noted advances in CNNs for "labeling and classifying images better than humans can, this is kind of like magic to me," Chung said.

GPUs such as Nvidia's Titan have up to ten times the performance of an FPGA but also consume much more power. "If [CNN acceleration] is the only workload you are running, it's not a bad way to go," he said.

Eric S. Chung

However, in a data centre running a mix of applications, FPGAs stand out for much lower power consumption and reasonable performance. In addition, FPGAs have plenty of head room for further tuning as CNN accelerators.

"FPGAs with hardened FPUs aren't that shabby," Chung said. "I'm excited about Altera's Stratix 10 with 10TFlops, this is where this space gets really interesting because FPGAs are now seven times faster than CPU [as accelerators] and will be 16 times faster," he said.

In addition, the time it takes to reconfigure and FGA to handle different data centre jobs is now down to less than a second. Intel recently described ways to map CNN jobs to a mix of CPU cores and FPGAs but there's "not much sharing between CPUs and FPGAs, it's all bulk transfers so coherence wouldn't provide us a big benefit," he said.

China's Baidu, which runs even larger data centres than Microsoft, is said to be even further along towards a similar goal of deploying FPGAs in all its servers.

Altera describes Stratix 10

Stratix 10 in Intel's 14nm process

Altera is making Stratix 10 in Intel's 14nm process.

Altera described its next-generation FPGA, the Stratix X. The chip is notable for its use of a new kind of internal fabric as well as for being the first to describe use of a new Intel packaging technology pitched as a lower cost alternative to 2.5D stacks.

Internally, Stratix 10 enables new ways to group logic elements and connected them with a programmable clock network that offers routing capabilities. The approach opens up new ways to optimise an FPGA pipeline, said Mike Hutton, a product architect at Altera.

Externally, the FPGA fabric uses Intel's Embedded Multi-die Interconnect Bridge (EMIB) to link to as many as two dozen separate transceiver die on its periphery. The approach lets Altera offer a variety of transceivers with its fabric and de-couple development of fabrics and transceivers.

Three views of the x86 road map

Intel's Knights Landing

One version of Intel's Knights Landing uses a separate OmniPath fabric die in package as well as Micron's Hybrid Memory Cube.

Intel provided described three existing x86 processors, two for servers and one for mobile devices.

Knights Landing (above) packs 72 variants of its Silvermont-class Atom core aimed at use in high-performance computer clusters. It is the first Xeon Phi that can boot an OS to act as a host. Previous chips were accelerators for a Xeon host.

Analyst David Kanter of Real World Technologies provided the following analysis of the chip: "The Knights Landing core is descended from, but very different from Silvermont. The instruction cache, memory cluster, floating point schedulers, floating point execution units and data cache are all tailored for HPC.

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