SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Intel's server group has started developing custom CPUs and will roll out as early as next year its first system-on-chip using its Core processor, a 14nm chip. The company also revealed details about Avoton, its first 22nm Atom-based SoC, and said it has unspecified x86 chips now in field trials in wireless base stations.
In a briefing on its server products, the x86 giant also described efforts to re-architect servers using its emerging 100G silicon photonics. The group is using the new chips and initiatives to keep pace with trends in cloud computing and expand into networking and storage while fending off an onslaught of ARM-based SoCs from as many as nine vendors.
Intel has developed custom CPUs for both eBay and Facebook. It's not clear the extent to which those efforts involved ground-up designs or simply manufacturing variations of existing products.
For years, Google, Facebook, and other large datacenters have defined their own system-level servers. The work may be turning to the silicon now in a shift Intel is following.
A custom chip for eBay sports 50 percent greater frequency variation, said Jason Waxman, general manager of Intel's cloud group in a press briefing. "Having a [new] CEO who comes from the fabs and who likes the idea [of custom products] is a nice thing to have," said Waxman.
Custom chips could give Intel an edge with its largest customers, potentially grabbing interest from top customers of IBM and Oracle. Just how far and how fast Intel moves into custom silicon is unclear. However, the briefing made clear that off-the-shelf chips remain Intel's primary focus.