Intel sells a Xeon to Google and Facebook

Chipzilla is adapting the Xeon server chips it sells to unternet heavyweights like Facebook and Google by integrating them with programmable chips.

The Big Idea is that customers with unique technical requirements will have more flexibility to optimise their servers.

Last year Intel experimented with 15 customised versions of those processors to meet the particular needs of high-end customers like eBay and Facebook.

This year it has seen gold in them thar hills with customisation and plans to make more than 30 flavours.

Diane Bryant, who leads Intel’s data centre division, told reporters at a briefing this week that the move will help see off competition as rivals prepare low-power processors based on technology from ARM.

Intel’s cunning plan integrates a standard Xeon processor and field-programmable gate arrays, or FPGA. Customers can configure the chips as needed to make servers faster at handling proprietary tasks, like providing web-search results or updating social networks.

If the software spends all its time on a particular algorithm, the company can take that algorithm and load it into the FPGA and accelerate that workload.

Intel already sells server products that combine Xeon chips and programmable chips but on the new component they will be much more closely integrated, resulting in up to double the performance, Bryant said.

Microsoft has been experimenting with using programmable chips to help power its sidelined Bling web search engine.