At last week's Ignite conference, Microsoft engineer Doug Burger, head of the company's experimental project, Project Catapult, demonstrated the processing power behind their FPGA powered hardware system.
In less than a tenth of a second - less time than it takes you to blink - Microsoft's FPGA system translated every article on Wikipedia. That's 3 billion words in less than a tenth of a second.
Microsoft is already using FPGA to power its search engine. With the advent of next generation FPGA, search capabilities will be faster. Instead of staring at a blank screen for four seconds - while you wait for Bing to run whatever algorithm is there - the standard wait time will be reduced to just 28 milliseconds. Using FPGA in Microsoft Bing started out as an experiment named Project Catapult. Project Catapult used Altera FPGA in PCIe cards to power the hardware behind Bing. The result was a 40 fold speed-up compared to a CPU.
Microsoft wants to build a common platform for all of its services - its search engine, Bing, the cloud computing service, Microsoft Azure, and its program suite, Office 365. While Microsoft has already committed to a future with FPGA, it will take some time to unite all three platforms under an FPGA-based hardware system.
Microsoft is using so many FPGA the company has a direct influence over the global FPGA supply and demand. Intel executive vice president, Diane Bryant, has already stated that Microsoft is the main reason behind Intel's decision to acquire FPGA-maker, Altera.
Why are FPGAs desirable over a typical CPU?
1) FPGA are faster and use less energy than a CPU.
2) They are customizable. Instead of building a special chip, an FPGA can be reprogrammed to handle a very specific task.
The biggest drawback that comes with an FPGA is taking the time to program it. Writing the code is both tedious and time-consuming.
Want to know more about why you should use an FPGA in your build? Take a look at our recent article - 3 Reasons to Choose an FPGA over an ASIC.
Also, click below to learn more about the FPGA we have on hand.
Image of Doug Burger holding an FPGA board is from PCWorld