Google Runs Custom Networking Chips - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

IoT
IoT
Data Centers
News
2/12/2016
09:06 AM
Connect Directly
Google+
LinkedIn
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Google Runs Custom Networking Chips

Google engineers contributed open source code to the LLVM compile project, revealing the company's use of in-house silicon.

10 Productivity Hacks To Kick-Start Your Day
10 Productivity Hacks To Kick-Start Your Day
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

Google for years has assembled its own server hardware in order to operate at scale efficiently. Now it appears the company has customized networking silicon.

Google software engineer Jacques Pienaar on Tuesday contributed backend source code to the open source LLVM compiler project in support of a processor identified as "Lanai."

Pienaar said that Lanai has 32 32-bit processors, with two used for fixed values and four used for program state tracking. The hardware lacks floating point support, meaning it isn't well-suited for mathematical calculations.

Google did not respond to a request for comment.

In response to a question seeking further details on the LLVM mailing list, Google software engineer Chandler Carruth said, "This is internal hardware for us, so there's not a lot we can share, and you can't really grab a version of the hardware."

(Image: Myricom)

(Image: Myricom)

Networking company Myricom, acquired by CSP in 2013, makes a network adapter with a chip called Lanai that's designed for parallel processing. In the past, the chip has been referred to as "LANai," a variation in capitalization that suggests support for both networking and artificial intelligence functions. CSP did not respond to a request for comment.

Google, meanwhile, has acquired a considerable portion of Myricom's engineering talent. Nan Boden, once CEO of Myricom, is now a director of engineering at Google, along with at least eight former colleagues, including former Myricom CTO Jakov Seizovic.

A 2002 paper from the the French Institute for Research in Computer Science and Automation (INRIA) describes the LANai processor as suitable for a network architecture designed around an "oversimplified, dumb, and performant core, with potential 'intelligence' at the edges of the network thanks to programmable processors."

Presumably, Google's custom networking processors can be used for network interconnection to increase data center efficiency through software-defined functions. They may also provide some security benefit, given concerns about the extent to which national intelligence agencies covet knowledge of vulnerabilities in commercial network hardware. Myricom currently suggests its networking adapters are well-suited to efficient packet sniffing and video streaming.

[ Read Google Parent Alphabet Dethrones Apple As Most Valuable Company. ]

A report in The Register indicates Google has been developing low-latency code for its network hardware to accelerate memcache workloads. Memcache, a distributed memory caching system, stores data in memory to reduce the number of times data needs to be read from a database.

Given the scale at which Google operates, even small optimizations can lead to significant savings. This explains the company's interest in custom hardware.

According to Bloomberg, Google purchases as many as 300,000 chips for its custom servers every quarter and has encouraged Qualcomm's efforts to enter the server chip market, currently dominiated by Intel.

Rising stars wanted. Are you an IT professional under age 30 who's making a major contribution to the field? Do you know someone who fits that description? Submit your entry now for InformationWeek's Pearl Award. Full details and a submission form can be found here.

Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful ... View Full Bio

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
danielcawrey
50%
50%
danielcawrey,
User Rank: Ninja
2/12/2016 | 2:25:26 PM
Intel
It has long been known that Google doesn't want to pay high chip prices from Intel. This is why it is trying to convince Qualcomm to get into the game. 

The problem is manufacturing, something Qualcomm doesn't necessarily want to do. It's really interesting to follow what Google is doing with this though, as I think they have a bigger impact on the hardware marketing than most people realize. 
Commentary
Gartner Forecast Sees 7.3% Shrinkage in IT Spending for 2020
Joao-Pierre S. Ruth, Senior Writer,  7/15/2020
Slideshows
10 Ways AI Is Transforming Enterprise Software
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek,  7/13/2020
Commentary
IT Career Paths You May Not Have Considered
Lisa Morgan, Freelance Writer,  6/30/2020
White Papers
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
Video
Current Issue
Key to Cloud Success: The Right Management
This IT Trend highlights some of the steps IT teams can take to keep their cloud environments running in a safe, efficient manner.
Slideshows
Flash Poll