Google appointed former Intel exec Uri Frank to lead the new chip division R&D in Israel. Frank will take the role of VP of Engineering of server chip design.

SoC is the new motherboard

Google already has two R&D centers in Israel, headed by Prof. Yossi Matias, however, development mostly focuses on software products, including voice search engines, audio assistants, and others. With Frank manning the helms, the new center will be the company’s first to focus on chip development in Israel, and Google looks to hire hundreds of employees from the local talent pool to fill the ranks.

According to Google, the reason behind this move comes from the company’s plan to transition from a motherboard, composed of processors, network components, storage devices, customized accelerators and memory, which is manufactured by various suppliers, into a system tailored to Google’s demands and requirements. Google states that in order to achieve improved performance while reducing power consumption, workloads demand deeper integration in basic hardware: “Instead of integrating components on a motherboard where they are separated by inches of wires, we are turning to “Systems on Chip” (SoC) designs where multiple functions sit on the same chip, or on multiple chips inside one package. In other words, the SoC is the new motherboard”.

Uri Frank credit: Geektime

A growing trend has seen many large-scale corporations venture off into the land of independent chip development, and Google is among them. “Just like on a motherboard, individual functional units (such as CPUs, TPUs, video transcoding, encryption, compression, remote communication, secure data summarization, and more) come from different sources. We buy where it makes sense, build it ourselves where we have to, and aim to build ecosystems that benefit the entire industry,” explains Google in a blog post announcing the move.

Making their own chips

This is not Google’s first dip into chips. Back in 2015, the company launched Tensor Processing Unit (TPU), which led to new capabilities, like real-time voice search, photo-object recognition, and interactive language translation. In 2018, Google launched Video Coding Units (VCUs) to enable video distribution over various formats. And in 2019, OpenTitan was launched as the first secure open-source chip design project ever. In addition, the company has developed different customized hardware products, starting from SSDs to hard drives, network switches, and network interface cards.