Microsoft’s Catapult Project To Power All Bing Data Centers Next Year [Report]


After a successful test, Microsoft says it will expand its Catapult server project to all Bing datacenters in 2015.

When Microsoft first detailed the project two months ago, the company said it would use the new technology in one datacenter starting early next year. But according to PC World, Microsoft told a microprocessor conference Tuesday that the results have been so good that the new server boards will be used in all Bing servers next year.

The PC World article gets into fairly technical details about the Catapult boards and their use of “field-programmable gate arrays” (FPGAs), but here’s the crux of the test and the speed improvements that affected Bing’s search results:

Microsoft then tucked the cards into a production test: 1,632 servers in a datacenter. What the company found, Putnam said, was that the FPGA cards accelerated Bing’s scoring of documents for relevance compared to a user’s search parameters. Microsoft achieved a 2X improvement in search throughput and a 29-percent reduction in the latency delay to process the search. The savings allowed Microsoft to cut the number of servers it needed in half.

Google has long focused on (and advertised) the speed of its servers and how quickly results are returned to searchers. It sounds like Microsoft is betting that Catapult will help narrow any gap that may exist in users’ minds between Bing and Google on the issue of getting results back quickly.

When discussing the Catapult project earlier this summer, Microsoft Research chief Peter Lee also said it’ll help with Bing’s relevancy:

For the first time ever, the quality of Bing’s page ranking will be driven not only by great algorithms but also by hardware.
Peter Lee, Microsoft

PC World also reports that Baidu, the Chinese search engine, has also been testing the same technology and has seen similar results as Microsoft.

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