Google to set up chip team in Israel led by former Intel exec

US tech giant says in blog it is ‘doubling down’ on designing and building custom chips to boost performance; newly appointed Uri Frank will build ‘world-class’ team in Israel

Shoshanna Solomon is The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter

The Google logo at the campus in Tel Aviv (YouTube screenshot)
The Google logo at the campus in Tel Aviv (YouTube screenshot)

US tech giant Google on Monday said it was “doubling down” on designing and building custom chips as a way to boost the performance of its computing systems, and has appointed a former Intel official to lead a team based in Israel.

The company said it has hired Uri Frank as Google’s new VP of engineering for server chip design to lead the team. Frank, an Israeli, left Intel earlier this year, and brings to the effort nearly 25 years of custom CPU design and delivery, Google said.

Frank “will help us build a world-class team in Israel,” Amin Vahdat, a Google Fellow and vice president of Systems Infrastructure, wrote in a blog post.

“We’ve long looked to Israel for novel technologies including Waze, Call Screen, flood forecasting, high-impact features in Search, and Velostrata’s cloud migration tools, and we look forward to growing our presence in this global innovation hub,” Vahdat wrote, citing acquisitions made in Israel and technologies developed locally.

The hire is part of Google’s effort “to meet computing demands from around the world,” and computing at Google is at an “important inflection point,” he wrote. Whereas once the motherboard was the system in use to integrate computer processing units (CPUs), networking, storage devices and memory from different vendors, this is no longer sufficient, as higher performance and less power usage is needed.

Uri Frank, Google’s VP of engineering for server chip design (Intel Corp)

Instead of integrating components on a motherboard where they are separated by inches of wires, the firm is now turning to system-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,” wrote Vahdat.

Google has over the years introduced a variety of processing units to customers, including the Tensor Processing Unit in 2015, Video Processing Units in 2018 and Open Titan in 2019.

Frank left Intel in February, after being appointed corporate vice president, one of the most senior roles at the firm. Intel has since replaced him with Israeli Ran Berenson.

Google has had R&D activity in Israel since 2005, in Haifa and Tel Aviv, with teams tackling machine learning, artificial intelligence, natural language processing and machine perception challenges. Frank’s appointment would mark the first time the Israeli activities expand to chip design and development, for which new workers will be employed.

“I am excited to share that I have joined Google Cloud to lead infrastructure silicon design,” Frank wrote in a post on LinkedIn. “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.”

Google’s move means competition for other multinational giants developing chips in Israel, including Intel, Nvidia, Apple and Amazon.

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