Project Catapult Helps Microsoft Take a Giant Leap Forward With Cloud Technology
The Economics’ Technology lifecycle states that a technology, once developed will become obsolete when there is a need for innovation and when demand surpasses its supply.
Following that, Humans will develop a new technology to create a new beginning, and so on goes the cycle.
Microsoft has a found a way to boost their data centers even though Moore’s law suggests otherwise.
According to Moore’s law: “It can’t continue forever. The nature of exponentials is that you push them out and eventually disaster happens“.
Do note that Moore’s law is not a physical or binding law, but it has been observed to hold since its creation.
At the International Symposium on Computer Architecture (ISCA), a paper titled “A Reconfigurable Fabric for Accelerating Large-Scale Datacenter Services” will be presented by a division of top Microsoft Research experts. They will explain how the company has leapt out of the slowdown in single-core clock-rate improvements.
Microsoft has come with a system called Catapult which automatically reinvests some of the advanced tech that powers its Bing search engine onto clusters of highly efficient, low-power FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Arrays) chips attached to typical Intel Xeon server processors.
In laymen terms, it means that instead of powering up the Xeon chips, you have these customizable FPGA chips that will be adaptive to different tasks.
The main problem that exists is that processes are getting slower. Even though we can see many new processors coming with multiple cores that can multitask, the processing speed of each core is not increasing.
In fact, it is stagnant. CPUs are not getting faster, but there are solutions to this. Microsoft’s Catapult can be called as such.
Microsoft is investing a lot into cloud-computing and research to speed up computer technology. Their solution is to pair field-programmable gate arrays with x86 processors, and then let some data-center services such as the Bing search engine offload certain well-understood operations to the arrays.
Among a test of 1632 servers employed, each generated around 95 percent in query throughput (which is a measurement for database performance) while increasing power-consumption by only 10 percent.
95 percent performance boost is significant by any standards considering it only asked for 10 percent increase in power consumption.
Microsoft has been very vocal about its effort to become Cloud-first company and Project Catapult is a testament of that effort. The Redmond’s giant has finally figured out a way to get consistent compute-performance boosts from its data centers.
It seems as if Microsoft will be the pioneer to the new age of FGPA chips and if their research holds, it will result in lesser power consumption and better, more efficient usage of standard CPU chips.
FPGA-enhanced servers will power Bing searches in early 2015, according to Derek Chiou, Principal Architect of Bing.
The reasoning behind this research stems from a Paper written by Microsoft’s Researcher Doug Burger, stating that within 3-5 years, the lack of more powerful CPUs will heavily disrupt the global industry.
It is interesting to note Microsoft plans to use Catapult for wide-range of services, not just Bing. Peter Lee, the head of Microsoft Research stressed that fact saying “If all we were doing was improving Bing; I probably wouldn’t get clearance from my boss to spend this kind of money on a project like this.”
“The Catapult architecture is really much more general-purpose, and the kinds of workloads that Doug is envisioning that can be dramatically accelerated by this are much more wide-ranging.”
Microsoft will not be the only winner if they successfully pull it off. Everyone wins!