SAN JOSE, Calif. — Baidu is expanding its footprint in Silicon Valley, as the Chinese-language Internet search giant plans a push into heterogeneous computing in its datacenters. A 40-person development group focused on data analytics and infrastructure will double or triple in staff this year.
"We realize the competition is not just in products but in talent as well and one of the best places for that is in Silicon Valley," said Ren Wu, who joined Baidu's office here six months ago to help lead the charge in embracing GPUs and DSP and well as CPUs in its datacenters.
The expanding office is still a small presence compared to rivals Google and Facebook. But the move to heterogeneous computing marks a big shift, he said.
Wu is well prepared to help drive the effort. Before joining Baidu, he built a team devoted to Nvidia's Cuda programming language while at HP Labs, then led the effort to build a software ecosystem for the AMD's Heterogeneous Systems Architecture before becoming a distinguished scientist in Baidu's Institute of Deep Learning.
The OpenCL language will become the core of an emerging industry ecosystem that brings heterogeneous computing to datacenters, said Wu. In this next phase, "Qualcomm could be leading competitor for Intel," he said.
"Highly dense ARM SoCs could get into the datacenter -- the technology is already mature, but people have to push the vendors hard," he said. "The Samsungs and Qualcomms have the right IP but are not serious enough to get into the datacenter," he added.
Wu also praised Intel's Broadwell, an upcoming Haswell-class x86 processor integrated with what he called "a very powerful GPU." Intel has yet to release an OpenCL runtime environment under Linux for the new SoC, he noted.
Baidu was one of the first web giants to adopt an ARM SoC for its datacenters, albeit in a fairly modest way. Last year, it chose a 32-bit Marvell Armada SoC as a storage controller.
Wu spoke at a press conference for a March 8 symposium on wearable computing sponsored by the Chinese American Semiconductor Professional Association.
"Everyone is looking for the killer app for wearables, but it's not clear what that is yet," said Wu, who will participate in a panel at the event. "Baidu will focus on big data so whatever emerges, we are prepared," he said.
"The first wave of wearables was focused on health monitoring -- that's something everyone worries about, but it's just the first step not the killer app," he said.
— Rick Merritt, Silicon Valley Bureau Chief, EE Times