Bing Catapult: New Technology Delivers Faster, More Relevant Search Results

Bing LogoBing has put significant resources behind a new data center project at Microsoft designed to give searchers faster results and results that are much more relevant to the query. Call it Bing’s version of Google Caffeine.

The Catapult project is a redesign of the data centers and machines that power Bing search. It began in 2012 and plans to effectively recreate how Bing handles searches in the backend.

The Catapult project technology can also be scaled across many different Microsoft platforms and services, meaning it can provide a faster user experience to their customers outside of Bing search as well.

Like Google and every other web giant, Microsoft runs its web services atop thousands of computer servers packed into warehouse-sized data centers, and most of these machines are equipped with ordinary processors from Intel, the world’s largest chip maker. But when he sat down with Lu, Burger said he wanted millions of dollars to build rack after rack of computer servers that used what are called field-programmable arrays, or FPGAs, processors that Microsoft could modify specifically for use with its own software. He said that these chips–built by a company called Altera–could not only speed up Bing searches, but also change the way Microsoft run all sorts of other online services.

What is also unique about the system is that Bing can update and enhance these types of chips, whereas the server system way of doing things has stalled out when it has come to getting the next bigger and faster version, according to a blog post on Microsoft TechNet.

“Going into production with this new technology will be a watershed moment for Bing search,” he [Peter Lee, head of Microsoft Research] says. “For the first time ever, the quality of Bing’s page ranking will be driven not only by great algorithms but also by hardware—incredibly advanced hardware that can be made more highly specialized than anything ever seen before at datacenter scale.”

This could also have an impact with mobile searches. If Bing can use this technology be able to provide the fastest search results possible, it could have a negative impact on the Google if their results are slower. However, the quality of search is still key, and if Google is serving up better search results, many people would have a hard times switching just for speed alone.

The new Catapult system only uses 10 percent more electricity while increasing throughput by 95 percent, The Register reported.

To say that the performance improvements in this approach have been noticeable would be a gross understatement. Microsoft tells us that a test deployment on 1,632 servers was able to increase query throughput by 95 per cent, while only increasing power consumption by 10 per cent.

If you like to geek out on things like servers and processors, Microsoft also released their paper that they presented in Minneapolis on June 16 at the International Symposium on Computer Architecture. The paper is titled A Reconfigurable Fabric for Accelerating Large-Scale Datacenter Services.

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