Intel, Google, Microsoft and more team up for CXL consortium to supercharge data centre performance

Intel, Google and Microsoft are among nine tech giants who have teamed up to launch a new industry group to advance data centre performance.

The group, which also includes Alibaba, Cisco, Dell EMC, Facebook, HPE and Huawei, is looking at solidifying Compute Express Link (CXL), an emerging high-speed CPU-to-device and CPU-to-memory interconnect. The particular focus is on high performance computing (HPC) and artificial intelligence (AI) workloads among others.

The companies confirmed in a statement that it had ratified the CXL Specification 1.0, built on PCI Express infrastructure which aims to offer breakneck speeds while supporting an ecosystem which enables even faster performance going forward.

The press materials outlined how CXL worked. “CXL technology maintains memory coherency between the CPU memory space and memory on attached devices, which allows resource sharing for higher performance, reduced software stack complexity, and lower overall system cost,” the companies wrote. “This permits users to simply focus on target workloads as opposed to the redundant memory management hardware in their accelerators.

“CXL was designed to be an industry open standard interface for high-speed communications, as accelerators are increasingly used to complement CPUs in support of emerging applications such as artificial intelligence and machine learning.”

The consortium is not stopping there; it is working on CXL Specification 2.0 and is looking for other companies to join, particularly cloud service providers, communications OEMs and system OEMs. “CXL is an important milestone for data-centric computing, and will be a foundational standard for an open, dynamic accelerator ecosystem,” said Jim Pappas, Intel director of technology initiatives.

The initiative is being led by Intel primarily – the press materials being sent to this reporter through the Intel UK mailing list was a bit of a giveaway – and while anyone in the three primary categories can join, eagle-eyed readers will have spotted some notable absentees, particularly a couple of leading cloud vendors as well as the likes of NVIDIA and AMD.

You can find out more about CXL and the group here.

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