Microsoft To Make Bing Faster By Integrating FPGAs In Servers

Marketers don't pay attention to geeky hardware stuff, but they should, especially when it makes search engines from Baidu and Microsoft run faster.

It's not always just about algorithms. Sometimes it's about FPGAs (field-programmable gate arrays) in semiconductor chips running on a board named Catapult that make servers run faster and more efficiently. Engineers at Microsoft ran tests using these boards with chips from Altera and found the specialized type of reprogrammable chip outperformed anything they currently use.

The board with Altera chips -- Catapult -- improved the performance of the search engine so much that Microsoft plans to integrate the boards and technology into its Bing data centers next year. China-based Baidu reported similar results. 

A Microsoft blog post explains Catapult’s technical specifications, spanning from FPGAs to improvements the company saw in early tests.

The strategy aims to speed up and increase the accuracy and relevancy of search results, per company executives during a session on the technology at Hot Chips, a symposium related to high performance semiconductor chips.

"Microsoft achieved a 2X improvement in search throughput and a 29-percent reduction in the latency delay to process the search," per PC World. "The savings allowed Microsoft to cut the number of servers it needed in half."

Faster computing and load times allow for additional services. One could rank results, another would serve ads, and a third might measure relevancy of the search query.

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