Microsoft debated between using ASICs and FPGA to power their search engines. While FPGA aren't as fast as ASICs, they have the added advantage of being reprogrammable. As the algorithms surrounding Bing change, Microsoft can reprogram their FPGA to mimic these changes.
In the end, Microsoft compromised and implemented several design requirements.
First, the FPGA can only be installed in servers that are used outside of Bing search processing.
Second, the server couldn't increase hardware failure rates or require network modifications.
Finally, the cost of the FPGA was to be less than 30 percent of the cost of a server and couldn't draw more than 10 percent of the overall power.
The project led to the Microsoft Open Compute Server which uses a Altera Stratix V FPGA.
More than 69 percent of all internet searches are conducted through Google. To get customers to use Bing over Google, Microsoft must offer an incentive of some sort. Right now, they have their Bing Rewards program in place. Users earn points for every search they conduct, and these points can be redeemed to enter raffles or to claim $5 gift cards. Additionally, the combination of Altera FPGA and Intel Xeon CPUs allow users to enjoy a much faster and more accurate search experience.
Project Capapult took three years to complete. During that time, Microsoft experimented with several FPGA, including Xilinx Virtex 6. Ultimately, the Altera Stratix V were selected.
EarthTron is a distributor of both Altera FPGA and Xilinx FPGA. If you're in the market to buy FPGA, consider searching through our list of available parts.
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