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Intel rolls out custom chip that powers Amazon’s EC2 instances

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Intel announced an exclusive Haswell processor designed specifically for Amazon Thursday during AWS re:Invent 2014 conference in Las Vegas. Amazon said the new processors are the backbone of its new EC2 instances in Amazon Web Services.

Intel’s senior vice president and general manager Diane Bryant took to the stage during Amazon vice president and CTO Werner Vogels’s keynote to drop the news. Bryant didn’t share a lot of details, but she said that both [company]Intel[/company] and [company]Amazon[/company] engineers collaborated on the chip to make sure its built to handle Amazon’s vast cloud infrastructure.

“Now your customers have the highest-performing EC2 instances on the planet,” said Bryant.

The Haswell processors are designed for Amazon’s new compute-optimized EC2 instance, which the company is calling C4. In a blog post detailing the C4 instance, Amazon explained how the new instance was created with the Haswell processor in mind and that the chip “runs at a base speed of 2.9GHz, and can achieve clock speeds as high as 3.5GHz with Turbo boost.”

The C4 instances will come in handy for people running compute-heavy workloads in the cloud for applications like online gaming, risk analysis or graphic rendering programs.

This makes another move by Intel to create custom silicon for companies. In July, Intel announced that it made an exclusive version of its Xeon E7 x2 processor for [company]Oracle[/company], which Oracle uses to run its Exadata Database Machine X4-8. That custom processor allows for Oracle’s machines to be controlled through software, which Oracle engineers can use to distribute resources when needed.

While this isn’t the first time Amazon has touted its use of Intel processors (AWS instances display the familiar “Intel Inside” corporate branding) this does highlight the fact that Intel is actively learning what its customers need and sees big business in providing custom designs.

Whether Intel will be making specialized chips for legacy companies like [company]HP[/company], [company]IBM[/company] or [company]Dell[/company] remains to be seen. However, there’s no doubt Intel is serious about providing specialized chips, like the upcoming silicon it announced at this year’s Structure event that contains both a Xeon processor and field-programmable gate array.


One Response to “Intel rolls out custom chip that powers Amazon’s EC2 instances”

  1. no thanks

    Any details as to what makes this a custom chip, as opposed to a SKU created by binning existing designs?

    E.g. the existing E5-2667v3 is 135W, 8 core @ 3.2GHz base, while the E5-2660v3 is 105W, 10 core @ 2.6GHz base. Amazon blog calls it a E5-2666v3, no core count given, base clock of 2.9GHz. Given their previous 10 core Ivy Bridge @ 2.6GHz base being a 32vCPU part, and this new one a 36vCPU part, I’d hazard a guess that this is “just” binning parts for 10 cores @ 2.9GHz, ~115-120W.