Intel’s latest chip is designed for computing at the edge

As we develop increasingly sophisticated technologies like self-driving cars and industrial internet of things sensors, it’s going to require that we move computing to the edge. Essentially this means that instead of sending data to the cloud for processing, it needs to be done right on the device itself because even a little bit of latency is too much.

Intel announced a new chip today, called the Intel Xeon D-2100 processor, to help customers who want to move computing to the edge. It’s part of an effort by the chip giant to stay ahead of emerging technology trends like edge computing and the Internet of Things.

Computing at the edge has some unique space and power requirements that Intel has tried to address with this announcement. For starters, it provides a stand-alone system on a chip (SoC). This means everything you need is built into the chip including compute, networking and storage. It’s also low power, which might be necessary to run an edge computing device without the benefit of a data center power structure.

In a blog post announcing the new chip, Jennifer Huffstetler, vice president and general manager of data center product management in the Data Center Group at Intel, pointed out the growing need for this type of architecture. “By expanding the capabilities of the data center outward to the network edge, solution providers can process more data closer to endpoint devices, reducing application latency and opening up a whole new world of potential services and experience,” Huffstetler wrote.

She added that the SoC gives customers an “integrated, hardware-enhanced network, security and acceleration capabilities in a single package.” The chip achieves all of this by packing a lot into a small package including up to 18 ‘Skylake-server’ generation Intel Xeon processor cores integrated with up to 100 Gbps of built-in cryptography, decryption and encryption acceleration. Intel calls this ‘QuickAssist Technology.’

The company sees this being particularly useful for new 5G technologies being developed for smartphones like augmented and virtual reality applications and autonomous driving. They also see it being useful for communications network use cases like virtual private networks and software-defined wide area networks and also certain cloud workloads that require processing close to the edge such as content delivery networks.

Intel has already built a partner network for the new chip with a variety of companies including Dell EMC, Ericsson, NEC, NetApp and Palo Alto Networks.

And if you’re concerned about the impact of the Spectre and Meltdown exploits, Intel reports that it has built in the latest patches into the new chip. (Although it’s worth noting that Intel had trouble with its initial attempts at patching the exploit.)