Intel Wants Centaur For Hybridization
They Are On A Trip To Ponte Vecchio Together
If you watched last week’s podcast, towards the end we reported on breaking news about Intel purchasing Centaur Technology from VIA, which led to several people asking what VIA could possibly have that Intel might want. The answer is, as usual, the knowledge of the designers and the IP that the company owns.
In this case Centaur Technology has been working for years on designing “x86-compatible processors that were cheaper and more efficient than Intel’s“, which did not work out so well for VIA who never managed to grab more than a percent or two of market share. They did not give up however, instead they changed focus to the design of “the industry’s first high-performance deep-learning coprocessor integrated into server-class x86 processor.”
That is what Intel is interested in; an HPC coprocessor which can be added to their existing products. Specifically, it is Ponte Vecchio, Intel’s multi-tile hybrid design which will blend a mélange of cores inside a single CPU which could benefit from Centaur’s work. Intel has in the past stated that some of the cores included in Ponte Vecchio will not be designed by Intel, so integrating an HPC coprocessor built on non-Intel architecture would be well within scope.
We have already seen a bit of what Ponte Vecchio will offer with the launch of Xe HPC accelerators as well as Intel’s capabilities mixing different chips together in Alder Lake, which makes a launch next year very believable. It will be interesting to see how much of Centaur’s design they can incorporate for the first generation of multi-tiled server processors.
VIA purchased Centaur in 1999 and gave it the job of developing x86-compatible processors that were cheaper and more efficient than Intel's, with the intent of breaking into the embedded systems market.