Monday March 11, 2019

Intel Announces Compute Express Link

Intel has announced Compute Express Link (CXL); a new industry open standard that allows for high-speed communications between CPU-to-Device and CPU-to-Memory interconnect in next-generation data centers. 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. The technology is built upon the PCI Express (PCIe) infrastruture and leverages the PCIe 5.0 physical and electrical interface to provide advanced protocol in three key areas: I/O Protocol, Memory Protocol, initially allowing a host to share memory with an accelerator, and Coherency Interface.

Some think that Intel is ready to embrace Gen-Z without embracing it outright. In the CXL announcement there are quotes linking CXL to Gen-Z. Robert Hormuth, Vice President & Fellow, Chief Technology Officer, Server & Infrastructure Systems, Dell EMC said, "Dell EMC is delighted to be part of the CXL Consortium and its all-star cast of promoter companies. We are encouraged to see the true openness of CXL, and look forward to more industry players joining this effort. The synergy between CXL and Gen-Z is clear, and both will be important components in supporting Dell EMC's kinetic infrastructure and this data era." Kurtis Bowman, President, Gen-Z Consortium said, "As a Consortium founded to encourage an open ecosystem for the next-generation memory and compute architectures, Gen-Z welcomes Compute Express Link (CXL) to the industry and we look forward to opportunities for future collaboration between our organizations."

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Monday's announcement could give Intel an advantage for its upcoming graphics cards, since the chip-maker will be building CXL compatibility into its popular server processors. It is reasonable to argue that the CXL is new and that Intel has a lot of market pull. At the same time, the CXL partner list is nothing less than underwhelming. Intel got big names of its customers, but it did not get other accelerators.