In brief: Intel has announced the formation of a consortium brought together to develop Compute Express Link (CXL), a high-speed interconnect designed as an interface between datacenter CPUs and other devices, such as FPGAs and memory chips.
Some of the biggest names in tech are part of the group: Microsoft, Alibaba, Cisco, Dell EMC, Facebook, Google, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and Huawei, though other companies are free to join. CXL started life at Intel four years ago before being launched today as an open standard.
Intel says the technology improves performance and removes the bottlenecks in computation-intensive workloads for CPUs and purpose-built accelerators. It will use the PCIe 5.0 physical and electrical interface, allowing it to reach speeds of 32 billion data transfers per second, or up to 128GB/s using x16 lanes.
“CXL creates a high-speed, low latency interconnect between the CPU and workload accelerators, such as GPUs, FPGAs and networking. CXL maintains memory coherency between the devices, allowing resource sharing for higher performance, reduced software stack complexity and lower overall system cost,” explained Navin Shenoy, executive vice president and general manager of the Data Center Group at Intel.
Intel said the first-generation specification of CXL will be available to consortium members in the first half of this year. Products that incorporate the technology, including Xeon processors, FPGAs, GPUs, and SmartNICs, will arrive in 2021.
The announcement comes just after Nvidia acquired chip maker Mellanox for $6.9 billion. The Israeli startup specializes in network hardware based on the Ethernet and InfiniBand communications protocols used for servers and storage within data centers. Its technology is found in over half of the world’s fastest supercomputers and in many leading hyperscale datacenters. Interestingly, Intel was reportedly trying to buy the company as a way of preventing others from getting their hands on its tech, but Chipzilla says CXL is an improvement over InfiniBand.