New Google Cloud VMs will be the first to run on Intel Xeon Sapphire Rapids

Google Cloud
(Image credit: Google Cloud)

Google has announced a new family of virtual machines that will become the first in the public cloud market to be powered by Intel’s fourth-generation Xeon server processors.

At Google Cloud Next ‘22, the company lifted the lid on its new C3 VMs, which it says can provide more predictable and efficient compute performance, courtesy of architecture that allows for certain tasks to be offloaded to supporting hardware.

The addition of new Hyperdisk block storage to the mix, meanwhile, means C3 VMs offer 4x the throughput and 10x higher IOPS per vCPU than the previous generation, C2.

Powered by custom silicon

The key to the performance increases on offer with the new generation of VMs, Google says, is the system-on-chip (SoC) design, which couples a fourth-gen Xeon CPU with a custom-built Intel infrastructure processing unit (IPU).

Launched by Intel in the summer of 2021, IPUs are designed to help cloud and network providers free up CPU performance by offloading functions like storage and network virtualization, which also yields various security benefits. In essence, IPUs are almost identical to data processing units (DPUs).

“We are pleased to have co-designed the first ASIC Infrastructure Processing Unit with Google Cloud, which has now launched in the new C3 machine series,” said Nick McKeown, SVP and GM of Network and Edge at Intel.

“A first of its kind in any public cloud, C3 VMs will run workloads on 4th Gen Intel Xeon Scalable processors while they free up programmable packet processing to the IPUs securely at line rates of 200Gb/s. This Intel and Google collaboration enables customers through infrastructure that is more secure, flexible, and performant.”

Separately, Intel will be relieved to see its new Xeon CPUs (codenamed Sapphire Rapids) in place in a production environment. The new chips were originally slated for launch in 2021, but the rollout has been punctuated by repeated delays and Intel is still wrestling to bring them to mass market.

Although select customers (presumably including Google Cloud) gained access to Sapphire Rapids silicon earlier this year, it now looks like the rest of the world will have to wait until Q1 2023.

But according to Google, the new Xeon CPUs were at least worth the wait, conferring a performance advantage of 20% for some VM customers, when paired with the custom Intel IPU.

The new C3 family of VMs are now available in private preview. TechRadar Pro has asked Google Cloud to provide a timeline for general availability.

Joel Khalili
News and Features Editor

Joel Khalili is the News and Features Editor at TechRadar Pro, covering cybersecurity, data privacy, cloud, AI, blockchain, internet infrastructure, 5G, data storage and computing. He's responsible for curating our news content, as well as commissioning and producing features on the technologies that are transforming the way the world does business.