There has been a growing industry trend in recent years for large-scale companies to build their own chips. As part of that, Google announced today that it has hired long-time Intel executive Uri Frank as vice president to run its custom chip division.
“The future of cloud infrastructure is bright, and it’s changing fast. As we continue to work to meet computing demands from around the world, today we are thrilled to welcome Uri Frank as our VP of Engineering for server chip design,” Amin Vahdat, Google Fellow and VP of systems infrastructure, wrote in a blog post announcing the hire.
With Frank, Google gets an experienced chip industry executive, who spent more than two decades at Intel, rising from engineering roles to corporate vice president at the Design Engineering Group. His final part before leaving the company earlier this month.
Frank will lead the custom chip division in Israel as part of Google. As he said in his announcement on LinkedIn, this was a big step to join a company with a long history of building custom silicon.
“Google has designed and built some of the world’s largest and most efficient computing systems. For a long time, custom chips have been an important part of this strategy. I look forward to growing a team here in Israel while accelerating Google Cloud’s innovations in compute infrastructure,” Frank wrote.
Google’s history of building its own chips dates to 2015, when it launched the first TensorFlow chips. It moved into video processing chips in 2018 and added OpenTitan, an open-source chip with a security angle, in 2019.
Frank’s job will be to continue to build on this previous experience to work with customers and partners to create new custom chip architectures. The company wants to move away from buying motherboard components from different vendors to building its own “system on a chip” or SoC, which it says will be drastically more efficient.
“Instead of integrating components on a motherboard where they are separated by inches of wires, we are turning to “Systems on Chip” (SoC) designs where multiple functions sit on the same chip or on multiple chips inside one package. In other words, the SoC is the new motherboard,” Vahdat wrote.
While Google was early to the “Build Your Own Chip” movement, we’ve seen other large scale companies like Amazon, Facebook, Apple, and Microsoft begin building their own custom chips in recent years to meet each company’s unique needs and give more precise control over the relationship between the hardware and software. It will be Frank’s job to lead Google’s custom chip unit and help bring it to the next level.