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posted by martyb on Friday June 04, @06:02PM   Printer-friendly
from the seen-any-good-deals-on-Xeons-lately? dept.

Google Replaces Millions of Intel's CPUs With Its Own Homegrown Chips

Google has designed its own new processors, the Argos video (trans)coding units (VCU), that have one solitary purpose: processing video. The highly efficient new chips have allowed the technology giant to replace tens of millions of Intel CPUs with its own silicon.

For many years Intel's video decoding/encoding engines that come built into its CPUs have dominated the market both because they offered leading-edge performance and capabilities and because they were easy to use. But custom-built application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) tend to outperform general-purpose hardware because they are designed for one workload only. As such, Google turned to developing its own specialized hardware for video processing tasks for YouTube, and to great effect.

However, Intel may have a trick up its sleeve with its latest tech that could win back Google's specialized video processing business.

[...] Instead of stream processors like we see in GPUs, Google's VCU integrates ten H.264/VP9 encoder engines, several decoder cores, four LPDDR4-3200 memory channels (featuring 4x32-bit interfaces), a PCIe interface, a DMA engine, and a small general-purpose core for scheduling purposes. Most of the IP, except the in-house designed encoders/transcoders, were licensed from third parties to cut down on development costs. Each VCU is also equipped with 8GB of usable ECC LPDDR4 memory.

[...] Intel isn't standing still, though. The company's DG1 Xe-LP-based quad-chip SG1 server card can decode up to 28 4Kp60 streams as well as transcode up to 12 simultaneous streams. Essentially, Intel's SG1 does exactly what Google's Argos VCU does: scale video decoding and transcoding performance separately from the server count and thus reduce the number of general-purpose processors required in a data center used for video applications.

Google still uses Xeon servers to attach up to 20 of the Argos VCUs. It's estimated that it replaced between 4 to 33 million Xeons.


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  • (Score: 2, Interesting) by fustakrakich on Friday June 04, @06:25PM (4 children)

    by fustakrakich (6150) on Friday June 04, @06:25PM (#1141855) Journal

    Holly hell, that's a lot of hardware!

    Hope it's not just going into the bin, but releasing them to the public could crash prices, we'll see what the accountants say

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  • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 04, @07:07PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 04, @07:07PM (#1141861)

    I'd like to buy one or two in a Google garage sale.

  • (Score: 2) by Reziac on Saturday June 05, @03:43AM

    by Reziac (2489) on Saturday June 05, @03:43AM (#1141955) Homepage

    Yeah, trashing 'em would be a gawdawful waste. Give them to us, so we can watch more video!

    Look for an explosion of cheap Xeon-based boards (with recycled chips) coming from China... already plenty on Ali Express.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 05, @10:39AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 05, @10:39AM (#1142010)

    Hope it's not just going into the bin

    Since Google is not a bunch of idiots, they probably repurposed the hardware? I know, shocking idea, but that's what they do. They use it for other things in their data centers.

    But in the end, it all goes into the bin.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 07, @11:53PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 07, @11:53PM (#1142962)

    Who knows how many ridiculous patents those chips violate. Selling them to the public could subject Google to a bunch of patent lawsuits. They might just decide to keep them in house.

    As a side note part of the reason companies no longer release technical documents is because they are afraid of getting sued by patent trolls with bogus patents that simply read through technical documents in search for patent infringements. So the solution is to stop releasing those technical documents. Hence patents result in less product transparency.