Bloomberg visited Intel's Hillsboro, Oregon fab to find out more about how the company makes a chip. It's quite an interesting read if you aren't familiar with chip production and the chip giant also confirmed that all Xeon E5 processors feature special circuits for big clients like Google, Amazon, Facebook, etc.
Intel explains that if you're a very big client, you can demand the insertion of unique features that will be off-limits to everyone else. The chip giant says it will do this, as long as the feature doesn't make the chip so much bigger that it becomes a cost burden for everyone else. It's not exactly news that Intel makes semi-custom chips, but the surprise here is that these features are present in every single Xeon E5 out there.
Another way to make a chip faster is to add special circuits that only do one thing, but do it extremely quickly. Roughly 25 percent of the E5’s circuits are specialized for, among other tasks, compressing video and encrypting data. There are other special circuits on the E5, but Intel can’t talk about those because they’re created for its largest customers, the so-called Super 7: Google, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent. Those companies buy—and often assemble for themselves—Xeon-powered servers by the hundreds of thousands. If you buy an off-the-shelf Xeon server from Dell or HP, the Xeon inside will contain technology that’s off-limits to you. “We’ll integrate [a cloud customer’s] unique feature into the product, as long as it doesn’t make the die so much bigger that it becomes a cost burden for everyone else,” says Bryant. “When we ship it to Customer A, he’ll see it. Customer B has no idea that feature is there.”