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Meet the Indians behind Intel's fastest server processor!

Last updated on: April 16, 2011 17:54 IST

Meet the Indians behind Intel's fastest server processor!

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Prasanna D Zore

Can you imagine this? 2.9 billion transistors sitting on a single chip that occupies 600 square millimetre of space or a chip that just fits in the palm of your hand.

Led by engineers at Intel Technology India, in Bangalore and in collaboration with teams in the US, Malaysia, Mexico, and Costa Rica Intel has not only successfully managed to do that but has also started shipping the record-breaking microprocessor named Intel Xeon E7 that has 10 cores, delivers 40 per cent greater performance with improved energy efficiency.

Ravishanker Kuppuswamy -- described as "the Rockstar" by Tom Kilroy, Intel's senior VP -- an engineering director at Intel and the design manager for Intel's E7 Xeon microprocessor family, is the man who led the design team that built the Xeon E7.

Ravi and R Sivakumar, MD, sales and marketing group, Intel South Asia spoke with Prasanna D Zore about the challenges the team faced and the role of Indian engineers in the design of Xeon E7 on the sidelines of the launch of the microprocessor in Mumbai recently.

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Image: Ravi Kuppuswamy, Xeon E7 Design Manager.
Photographs: Intel India
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What is the role of a design manager?

Well, the design manager is essentially responsible for the product development of the chip and the concept all the way till it comes out as a product. It involves designing the architecture, coming out with circuit and actually going off and designing this chip in a fashion where it is finally a very high quality product. And that's very important because in case the design goes wrong then the cost of developing that product goes up.

What kind of challenges did you face from the time you conceptualised this design till the time it has started shipping out?

Essentially, the E7 is an extremely complex design. Lots of innovation, very high performance, power efficiency all of this require a significant design technique and innovation. So the smart people in the team worked together, developed solutions and built a great product.

What are the salient features of E7 Xeon?

It's an extremely high-performing chip, 2.9 billion transistors on Intel plated software technology which essentially is a 32 nanometres process. All of this helps us put 2.9 billion transistors on a 600 square millimetre chip and helps its high performance.

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Image: Intel Xeon processor
Photographs: Intel India
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Meet the Indians behind Intel's fastest server processor!

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Who conceptualised the idea of this chip?

It is not one single person who conceptualised any idea. There is a think tank that kind of works together, come out with an idea and go out executing it in a collaborative effort. We have designed it in India with validation and engineering teams across the world in Malaysia, Costa Rica and the US worked together on this.

Which part of the chip happened in India?

The design definitely and the portions of the validation process happened in India.

We designed a big portion of it and it was kind of project managed from India as well. But we do have partners across other places in the world including the US.

How big is this an achievement for Intel India?

It's a huge achievement for Intel as a whole. E7 is a leading server processor. So in that sense Intel India is pioneering this effort and in that sense it's a huge deal for Intel India and Intel and a very good deal for all our customers.

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Meet the Indians behind Intel's fastest server processor!

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Intel engineers want to solve very complex, very hard problems: R Sivakumar

What kind of accomplishment is this for Intel India considering that the design team was lead by Indian engineers?

Our design centre in Bangalore is about dozen years old. Most designs go through a period of evolution and your sophistication improves and you get bigger activities to do. E7 sorts of marks a milestone in that process where a significant part of the product in terms of end-to-end from conceptualisation, to design, to actual implementation of that design, the pre and post validation of processes a lot of that was done in Bangalore.

Obviously, like we do with most of other projects, there are involvements with various other sites around the world. But this is a highly complex Intel's first 10 core processor with 2.9 billion transistors on one chip these are the difficult technical processes by which you can measure the complexity of a product all of that was done out of Intel India in Bangalore.


Image: R Sivakumar

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What kind of qualities helped you build a great team that designed a cutting-edge processor?

I'd say it is focus; we have all been focusing on a very high-end work in Bangalore. So as a result that brings us to the type of engineers we recruit. These are the people who get to do the type of work in our design centre which they can do nowhere else. And they are involved in this for multiple years.

These products take three to four years to conceptualise, design, build and bring out the end product. Today is the culmination of that (focus). Today is when you get on stage, make it (Intel Xeon E7) public, launch it, the press writes about it, our customers go out and buy it.

Tell us about the challenges you and your team faced in making Xeon E7 a reality?

All engineering activities can be viewed as a challenge on one hand. Or you view it as an opportunity to do absolutely cutting-edge work on the other. Most of our engineers like to take the latter view that you are doing state-of-the-art, cutting-edge work here.

So, in some ways the challenges are the normal challenges that we run in to but the criticality of the understanding here is the fact that you want to own one of the complex engineering project ever done by mankind.

And for our engineers there is nothing else they look forward to. They want to solve very complex, very hard problems and that's what these guys here focus on.



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