Intel is a changing semiconductor manufacturer. It announced that it would ship a Xeon processor with a FPGA (Field-programmable gate array) component.

The latter is connected to the actual processor via Intel's QPI (quick path interface) and can be reconfigured to suit the specific needs of its customers. In other words, the variable part of the can be redesigned to suit new workloads or changing compute demands.

In a post on Intel's data center blog, Diane Bryant, Intel's GM for its Data Centre group, confirmed that the company delivered 15 custom products in 2013 to hyperscale clients including Ebay and Facebook.

Bryant says that Intel will more than double that amount with the Xeon FPGA-powered processor being part of an equation which also includes Xeon Phi and Atom-based Xeon parts.

A new era for Intel?

Low latency and coherent interface should help the new FPGA-infused CPU deliver up to 20x perfornance gains compared to a traditional x86 setup.

Not much is known about the end product though; it will be pin compatible with the existing Xeon E5 LGA 2011 socket and will target data centres and enterprise ecosystems.

The FPGA bit is likely to be sourced from a close Intel partner like Altera who already use Intel's manufacturing plants.

Don't expect it to come to the company's desktop or mobile range or even the company's entry level server processors.