Intel Announces The IPU - Infrastructure Processing Unit
Intel describes the Infrastructure Processing Unit as "a programmable networking device designed to enable cloud and communication service providers to reduce overhead and free up performance for central processing units (CPUs). With an IPU, customers will better utilize resources with a secure, programmable, stable solution that enables them to balance processing and storage...The IPU is a programmable network device that intelligently manages system-level infrastructure resources by securely accelerating those functions in a data center. It allows cloud operators to shift to a fully virtualized storage and network architecture while maintaining high performance and predictability, as well as a high degree of control."
The IPU would deal with storage virtualization, network virtualization, security and more so that CPU resources are freed up from those tasks.
This just isn't a pipe dream or wish list but already they have FPGA-based IPU platforms at multiple cloud service providers while their first ASIC IPU is currently undergoing tests. Intel will be rolling out new FPGA-based IPU platforms and dedicated ASIC IPUs moving forward.
More details on the IPU at Intel.com.