Google to Step Up New Chip Development Center in Israel

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A 'Googler' sits on their computer in Google's offices in Israel. Google plans to step up a new chip development center in Israel headed by Uri Frank
A 'Googler' sits on their computer in Google's offices in Israel. Google plans to step up a new chip development center in Israel headed by Uri Frank Credit: Nir Keidar

After resigning unexpectedly from Intel, Uri Frank has been named Google’s vice president of engineering for server chip design.

Frank will head a new chip development team based in Israel, and Google is expected to hire hundreds of people for it.

Frank was one of the most senior Israelis employed at Intel until he suddenly left in February, shortly after Pete Gelsinger took over as the company’s CEO. In his last position there, he was general manager of Intel’s Core & Client Development Group.

Frank has 25 years of experience in the semiconductor field. He held senior managerial positions related to flagship Intel products like Sandy Bridge and Ice Lake. He is a graduate of the Technion, where he obtained both his bachelor’s and his master’s degree in engineering.

Uri Frank, who left Intel, will head up the Israeli chip development center; hundreds of new employees will be hired by Google to work on the new AI-focused processors Credit: אינטל

Google said that Frank will recruit a “world-class” global team that will operate from Israel and set up a global innovation center that will serve as a home for pioneering engineering talents. This means that for the first time, Google’s development center in Israel will include a section that develops hardware and chips rather than focusing exclusively on software.

According to a post that Frank published on his LinkedIn, the Israeli team will focus on introducing innovation into Google Cloud’s cloud computing infrastructure. He added that the company would soon start publishing want ads for SoC engineers (the acronym stands for “systems on chip”).

For several years, Google has been developing customized chips and processors meant for its own data centers and devices. First and foremost is its TPU processor, which is meant to accelerate artificial intelligence tasks. 

In 2018, the company launched a video processing unit to enable the dissemination of videos in a variety of formats. In addition, it has developed customized hardware solutions, including solid-state drives, hard disks, network switches and network interface controllers, most of them in cooperation with external partners.

The company is also working to develop chips for its own Pixel smartphones. Frank wrote in a LinkedIn post that “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.”

Amin Vahdat, Google’s vice president of systems infrastructure, explained the company’s decision to set up the new unit in a blog post.

“Compute at Google is at an important inflection point,” he wrote. “To date, the motherboard has been our integration point, where we compose CPUs, networking, storage devices, custom accelerators, memory, all from different vendors, into an optimized system. But that’s no longer sufficient: to gain higher performance and to use less power, our workloads demand even deeper integration into the underlying hardware.

“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.”

“Just like on a motherboard, individual functional units (such as CPUs, TPUs, video transcoding, encryption, compression, remote communication, secure data summarization, and more) come from different sources,” Vahdat added. “We buy where it makes sense, build it ourselves where we have to, and aim to build ecosystems that benefit the entire industry.”