Google: We look forward to running non-Intel processors in our cloud

OK, so someone's angling for a discount


Google has gently increased pressure on Intel – its main source for data-center processors – by saying it is "looking forward" to using chips from IBM and other semiconductor rivals.

The web advertising giant said it hopes to use a mix of "architectures within our cloud" in the future.

Back in April, Google revealed it had ported its online services to Big Blue's Power processors, and that its toolchain could output code for Intel x86, IBM Power and 64-bit ARM cores at the flip of a command-line switch. As well as Power systems, Google is experimenting with ARM server-class chips and strives to be as platform agnostic as possible.

The keyword here is experimenting: the vast majority of Google's production compute workloads right now run on Intel x86 processors. In fact, according to IDC, more than 95 per cent of the world's data center compute workloads run on Intel chips. Thus, to keep its supply options open, to keep Intel from price gouging it, and to evaluate competing hardware, Google test drives servers with non-x86 CPUs. It makes sense to widen your horizons.

On Friday this week, Google stepped up from simply toying with gear from Intel's competitors to signaling it seriously hopes to deploy public cloud services powered by IBM Power chips.

"We look forward to a future of heterogeneous architectures within our cloud," said John Zipfel, Google Cloud's technical program manager.

This comes as Google shared draft blueprints for the Zaius P9 server: an OpenCAPI and Open-Compute-friendly box with an IBM Power9 scale-out microprocessor at its heart. That's the same Power9 the US government is using in its upcoming monster supercomputers. Google has worked with Rackspace, IBM and Ingrasys on the Zaius designs – you may recall that the Zaius concept was unveiled in April.

The Zaius block diagram ... click to enlarge (Source: Google)

OpenCAPI is the anyone-but-Intel interconnect fabric that emerged this week; the Zaius P9's OpenCAPI compatibility, and support for Nvidia's high-speed NVLink, further highlights Google's reluctance to be shackled to Intel. As well as supporting OpenCAPI, the Z9 has 16 channels of DDR4 memory, SATA and USB interfaces, gigabit Ethernet, BMC and serial access, and a bunch of PCIe gen-4 interfaces.

It takes a 48V supply – a voltage level that apparently hits a sweet-spot for data center machines in terms of power and energy efficiency – and meets the Open Rack v2 standard. The blueprints will be submitted to the Open Compute Project (OCP) to evaluate and approve.

Hyper-scale companies like Google and Facebook publish their server specifications so Asian hardware manufacturers can mass produce them on the cheap, relatively speaking. That way, cloud giants get to buy exactly what they want without having to negotiate deals with traditional server vendors like Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

"We've shared these designs with the OCP community for feedback, and will submit them to the OCP Foundation later this year for review," explained Zipfel.

"This is a draft specification of a preliminary, untested design, but we’re hoping that an early release will drive collaboration and discussion within the community."

Aside from compute workloads, we understand Google uses customized Nvidia GPUs for its AI-powered Google Translate service, and no doubt in other platforms too alongside its machine-learning ASIC. It also uses a customized network controller with builtin intelligence to manage and access vast pools of cached information with low latency. If you work at Google, and you need some silicon for your application, the answer is not always "Intel." ®

Similar topics

Broader topics


Other stories you might like

  • Verizon: Ransomware sees biggest jump in five years
    We're only here for DBIRs

    The cybersecurity landscape continues to expand and evolve rapidly, fueled in large part by the cat-and-mouse game between miscreants trying to get into corporate IT environments and those hired by enterprises and security vendors to keep them out.

    Despite all that, Verizon's annual security breach report is again showing that there are constants in the field, including that ransomware continues to be a fast-growing threat and that the "human element" still plays a central role in most security breaches, whether it's through social engineering, bad decisions, or similar.

    According to the US carrier's 2022 Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR) released this week [PDF], ransomware accounted for 25 percent of the observed security incidents that occurred between November 1, 2020, and October 31, 2021, and was present in 70 percent of all malware infections. Ransomware outbreaks increased 13 percent year-over-year, a larger increase than the previous five years combined.

    Continue reading
  • Slack-for-engineers Mattermost on open source and data sovereignty
    Control and access are becoming a hot button for orgs

    Interview "It's our data, it's our intellectual property. Being able to migrate it out those systems is near impossible... It was a real frustration for us."

    These were the words of communication and collaboration platform Mattermost's founder and CTO, Corey Hulen, speaking to The Register about open source, sovereignty and audio bridges.

    "Some of the history of Mattermost is exactly that problem," says Hulen of the issue of closed source software. "We were using proprietary tools – we were not a collaboration platform before, we were a games company before – [and] we were extremely frustrated because we couldn't get our intellectual property out of those systems..."

    Continue reading
  • UK government having hard time complying with its own IR35 tax rules
    This shouldn't come as much of a surprise if you've been reading the headlines at all

    Government departments are guilty of high levels of non-compliance with the UK's off-payroll tax regime, according to a report by MPs.

    Difficulties meeting the IR35 rules, which apply to many IT contractors, in central government reflect poor implementation by Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs (HMRC) and other government bodies, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said.

    "Central government is spending hundreds of millions of pounds to cover tax owed for individuals wrongly assessed as self-employed. Government departments and agencies owed, or expected to owe, HMRC £263 million in 2020–21 due to incorrect administration of the rules," the report said.

    Continue reading
  • Internet went offline in Pakistan as protestors marched for ousted prime minister
    Two hour outage 'consistent with an intentional disruption to service' said NetBlocks

    Internet interruption-watcher NetBlocks has reported internet outages across Pakistan on Wednesday, perhaps timed to coincide with large public protests over the ousting of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

    The watchdog organisation asserted that outages started after 5:00PM and lasted for about two hours. NetBlocks referred to them as “consistent with an intentional disruption to service.”

    Continue reading
  • Suspected phishing email crime boss cuffed in Nigeria
    Interpol, cops swoop with intel from cybersecurity bods

    Interpol and cops in Africa have arrested a Nigerian man suspected of running a multi-continent cybercrime ring that specialized in phishing emails targeting businesses.

    His alleged operation was responsible for so-called business email compromise (BEC), a mix of fraud and social engineering in which staff at targeted companies are hoodwinked into, for example, wiring funds to scammers or sending out sensitive information. This can be done by sending messages that impersonate executives or suppliers, with instructions on where to send payments or data, sometimes by breaking into an employee's work email account to do so.

    The 37-year-old's detention is part of a year-long, counter-BEC initiative code-named Operation Delilah that involved international law enforcement, and started with intelligence from cybersecurity companies Group-IB, Palo Alto Networks Unit 42, and Trend Micro.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022