Google says it's still up for making Intel's latest Ice Lake data-center processors available in its public cloud service.
The chips, officially known as third-generation Intel Xeon Scalable Processors, will offer a 30 per cent boost in price-performance terms over the previous generation Xeons in the ad giant's cloud, Google claimed on Wednesday.
The 10nm chips will be offered in N2 compute engine virtual machines, which can be set up for things like web serving and back-office applications. The closely related N2D VM is offered with rival 7nm AMD second-generation Epyc silicon. The N2 right now uses Intel's 14nm second-generation Xeon Scalable Processors code-named Cascade Lake.
The timing of Google's announcement this week is interesting when you look at the other clouds. When Intel officially tore the wraps off Ice Lake in April, Microsoft, Oracle, and Amazon had announcements ready to roll that day saying third-gen Xeons would be coming to their platforms.
We can't find a similar standalone announcement from Google at that time, though Intel named Google as one of its major cloud partners during the launch and had a Google Compute Engine program manager on camera to say the latest-gen silicon would be coming to the web goliath's public platform later in the year.
In the end, Oracle said its Ice Lake virtual machines would be globally available by the end of April; Amazon made its one instance of Ice Lake available in August; and Microsoft has various Ice Lake VMs available as a preview if you ask nicely.
And for Google? Still not quite there yet. We're told N2 VMs with Ice Lake silicon "will be available in preview in early Q4’21 in the us-central1, europe-west4 and asia-southeast1 regions."
"Availability in additional Google Cloud regions, in line with current N2 machine family regions, is planned in the coming months," Googlers Ziv Kalmanovich and Subra Chandramouli added tentatively in their announcement.
When the third-gen Xeons eventually land, the N2 instances will be available with up to 128 virtual CPU cores, up from 80; and as much as 864GB of RAM, up from 640GB, for the most-demanding applications, we're assured.
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Intel hyped its Ice Lake family as being as much as 46 per cent faster than its predecessor for certain data center workloads, and AI tasks like language processing are alleged to be up to 74 per cent faster. We always take these numbers with a pinch of salt.
"At a high level, Ice Lake provides more cores and higher performance compared to the previous gen, 40 versus 28, and has a lot more built-in acceleration features, such as enhanced AI acceleration capabilities, added security features and crypto acceleration features," an Intel spokesman said via email.
Google did not respond to questions about whether it would put Ice Lake chips in other virtual machine offerings.
Given Intel's long delays with its 10nm process node and Ice Lake range; the ongoing global semiconductor shortages; and the light availability of these latest Xeons on competing platforms, we're not holding our breath. The cloud giants are not right now in a rush, for one reason or another, to refresh their servers with flagship Intel silicon, it appears. ®