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Data Center



So you wanna build whopping pools of PCIe flash? Say no more, whisper Intel, Facebook

Plus new Xeon D and libraries for Xeon+FPGAs

OCP Summit Intel will reveal a bunch of tech today at the Open Compute Project (OCP) Summit in San Jose, California – from NVMe storage blueprints and new Xeon D system-on-chips to processors with builtin FPGAs.

The OCP, launched by Facebook in 2011, encourages hardware manufacturers to produce generic gear to the project's open standards and specifications. This is so that large organizations – like Facebook, Microsoft, Apple and perhaps even you if you've got the budget – can buy the machines cheaply in bulk and use software to customize and control the gear as they wish.

Right now, Jason Waxman, Intel's Data Center Group veep, is giving a keynote to the OCP Summit audience. Here are the highlights of what will be discussed and announced:

Blueprints for using NVMe with OCP hardware

Developed and published by Intel and Facebook, Lightning is a new set of open and available designs for building pools of Non-Volatile Memory Express (NVMe) storage in data centers using OCP-compliant servers. NVMe is an interface for hooking up solid-state drives to systems via PCIe, and thus useful for shifting nearby data at high-speed.

"Lightning is designed to scale across different storage workloads, including capacity storage, pooled storage, and high-availability storage," explained Raejeanne Skillern, VP of Intel's Cloud Service Provider Group.

Tools for commanding FPGAs glued to Xeon CPUs

Intel has been talking about bundling FPGAs – programmable arrays of digital logic – within the packages of some of its Xeon processors for some time. This year it will ship Xeons that include FPGAs, and will be updating its motherboard specifications so future systems can use the tech.

From today, Chipzilla will provide open-source software libraries to take advantage of gate arrays bundled within its CPUs. Developers can use the libraries to snatch control of the FPGAs and get them to accelerate workloads in hardware and take the strain off the main CPU cores.

"Intel plans to deliver libraries within our pilot program that is bringing together next-gen Xeon processors and Arria 10 GX FPGAs on a multi-chip package for early software development," said Skillern.

"We plan to bring these libraries to the open source community. This will fuel innovation within the FPGA developer ecosystem in the form of new algorithms and applications for end users, and will speed time to market for accelerator-based solutions. We also plan to work with the OCP ecosystem to enable the future OCP designs to accommodate the integrated Intel Xeon and FPGA product."

New Xeon D SoCs built with help of Facebook

Chipzilla has also produced a 16-core 65W Broadwell-DE Xeon D processor customized for Facebook's workloads. This is what you can do when you order thousands upon thousands of chips a quarter: favors from a fellow mega-corp.

This tech won't stay within the social network's data centers, though. Intel says it will now make those Xeon D system-on-chips available for all: they run at 1.9GHz, each consume up to 65W, and sport interfaces for two 10Gb Ethernet ports, PCIe generation 3 connectivity, six SATA3 ports, and a USB controller. They are essentially Intel's answer to ARM server CPUs making forays into racks. ®

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