Google Replaces Millions of Intel's CPUs With Its Own Homegrown Chips [tomshardware.com]
Google has designed its own new processors, the Argos video (trans)coding units [blog.youtube] (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 [substack.com].
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 [tomshardware.com]-based quad-chip SG1 server card [intel.com] 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.