April 19, 2018 // 10:54 a.m.
Facebook has indicated that it's not going to let the current furore over the social networking platform's privacy policies get it down, posting a job advert which indicates the company is at least investigating the creation of custom silicon to power its services.
In an official job posting first spotted by industry outlet Techcrunch, Facebook's Menlo Park facility has requested the skills of an 'ASIC [application specific integrated circuit, a chip built in silicon to perform a certain task] & FPGA [field programmable gate array, a chip which can be reprogrammed to carry out specific tasks and which is typically the first step in testing a design prior to manufacturing an ASIC] Design Engineer' with experience in resistor-transfer level (RTL) synthesis. In other words: Facebook is looking to build its own chips.
'Facebook is seeking a silicon design engineer to join our Infrastructure team. We are looking for candidates with expertise in architecting and designing semi-custom and fully custom ASICs,' the recruitment post reads. 'The role involves evaluating, developing and driving next generation technologies within Facebook. The candidate would need to work with software and system engineers to understand limitations of current hardware and use their expertise to build custom solutions targeted at multiple verticals including AI/ML, compression, and video encoding. This position is full-time and located in our Menlo Park office.'
For Facebook, this marks its first foray into custom silicon - but it's far from alone. Advertising giant Google has been working on custom silicon for some time, shipping the Pixel Visual Core in its own-brand smartphones and using Tensor Processing Units to speed its natural-language query and translation services. According to Google's Norm Jouppi, developing its own silicon accelerated its workloads 'roughly equivalent to fast-forwarding technology about seven years into the future - three generations of Moore’s Law.'
Facebook hasn't indicated precisely what it's working on, but from the advert's focus on artificial intelligence, machine learning, compression, video encoding, and power efficiency, it's clear the company is hoping to put hardware at the centre of its future development process.