SAN FRANCISCO — Google appears to be ramping up a broad and deep effort in developing its own chips. Just what it is designing is still unclear.
At a panel at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference (ISSCC), veteran venture capitalist John Doerr said, "at some point in time Facebook will work on proprietary silicon, I know for a fact Google is."
The same day, another veteran chip designer at ISSCC told EE Times he knows at least two or three circuit designers Google has hired over the last year or so.
A key engineer behind the Hewlett-Packard Moonshoot server moved to Google six months ago. Partha Ranganathan "is currently at Google designing their next-generation systems," according to his website. He worked at HP on systems that can accommodate a wide range of Xeon, Atom, and ARM processors.
Google is exploring whether or not to design its own ARM server chip, according to a Bloomberg report from December based on a single source. The search giant has not made a decision on the project yet, the report said, noting a job posting for a hardware engineer updated in December.
More evidence of Google's intentions can be found on its online job postings.
Google updated on January 28 an opening for an "ASIC top level design engineer." The person is responsible for "creation and delivery of top-level RTL for ASIC and SOC projects."
A separate posting updated January 20 listed an opening for a CAD engineer to "lead the overall IC, ASIC, and/or Chip CAD platforms for multiple design projects." The engineer will support custom EDA flows and install third-party IP blocks and design kits.
The job postings suggest Google may be fairly early on in establishing a deep and broad semiconductor design capability. The postings all include the following boilerplate text making it clear the chip design efforts are for Google's datacenter systems:
Our computational challenges are so big, complex and unique we can't just purchase off-the-shelf hardware, we've got to make it ourselves. Your team designs and builds the hardware, software and networking technologies that power all of Google's services. You develop from the lowest levels of circuit design to large system design and see those systems all the way through to high volume manufacturing.
Next page: A long trail