“Project Catapult” has finally arrived.
In November 2012, Microsoft started on a project that looked to revolutionize their Bing search servers through field-programmable arrays (FPGAs) processors. Basically, the processors could be customized for use with Microsoft-specific software, dramatically increase the speed of search and improve upon current Microsoft services.
“Using FPGAs, Microsoft engineers are building a kind of super-search machine network they call Catapult. It’s comprised of 1,632 servers, each one with an Intel Xeon processor and a daughter card that contains the Altera FPGA chip, linked to the Catapult network,” reported Robert McMillan of Wired.com.
Now in 2014, Project Catapult is ready to launch and Microsoft will hope the massive budget for the construction and engineering will be worth it.
With the FPGAs, processing is 40 times faster than Bing’s custom algorithms.
“Right off the bat we can chop the number of servers that we use in half,” said Doug Burger, the Microsoft man that inspired the idea.
Although the “official” release isn’t slated until 2015, Catapult is set up and passing test after test, and don’t be surprised if it’s already working on certain Bing applications.
“There are large challenges in scaling the performance of software now. The question is: ‘What’s next?’ We took a bet on programmable hardware,” Burger said.