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Intel’s new 18-core Xeon chip takes aim at self-driving cars and IoT tech

INTEL WANTS to get up all inside devices that lurk on the edge of networks with its new 18-core Xeon D-2100 processor.

Traditionally, Xeon chips have been the domain of workstations and server machines, churning away at video rendering or crunching enterprise workloads.

But Intel’s new Xeon chipset is a SoC that’s designed to bring beefy performance to devices that sit on the ‘edge of the network’, from routers and remote servers to Internet of Things (IoT) systems and connected cars.

Intel is rather dully touting the Xeon D-2100 as ideal for optimising cloud workloads and storage, bringing better content delivery to networks for streaming media and large files, and improving overall enterprise network performance… yawn.

“The Intel Xeon D-2100 processor allows service providers and enterprises to deliver the maximum amount of compute intelligence at the edge or web tier while expending the least power,” said Sandra Rivera, general manager of the network platforms group at Intel.

But before you’re lulled into a coma, the interesting aspect of the Xeon D-2100 is the idea of bringing “compute intelligence” to devices sitting on the edges of networks.

Think connected cars and self-driving systems, which it seems everyone is working on, that need powerful chips to crunch through all the data they need to not hit a child at 30mph.

With an 18-core chip at the heart of an autonomous driving system, a vehicle could guzzle down data like INQ staffers chug pints. This could also, in time, make self-driving systems smarter, as the more data they process the more they learn. 

Intel’s processors can already be found in cars, but the self-driving aspects tend to be the domain on Nvidia with its Drive PX and Pegasus tech. But with a powerful but energy-efficient Xeon chip, Intel could muscle in on some of Nvidia’s territory.

Alternatively, the Xeon chip could find its way into smart home systems that can deliver their intelligent functions without relying on a privacy-sapping internet connection, as bringing 18 cores to bear on tasks such as natural language processing means demanding tasks can be computed locally.

Of course we’re reading between the lines here, and given Intel hasn’t announced pricing for the Xeon D-2100 there’s a chance it could be too expensive for developers and companies to simply experiment with.

We’ll have to wait and see if the new Xeon chip does indeed brake out of the server world, but if nothing else Intel says it will come with built-in protection against the Meltdown and Spectre flaws, so that’s a positive step at least. µ

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