Intel Updates Data Center Strategy: More Devices Forces More Innovation

By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2012-09-11

Intel Updates Data Center Strategy: More Devices Forces More Innovation

SAN FRANCISCO -- Intel, whose processors are firing away in 95 percent of all data centers, literally has been at the center of the data center world for generations. However, with all that power and influence in the silicon hardware sector, it has never been recognized by the general public -- and Wall Street, for that matter -- as the major player in the software world it is.

That non-awareness is changing. Intel, with 12,000 of its 100,100 full-time people employed in its software development and testing division, now describes itself as the fifth-largest software producer in the world. And this isn't just about firmware; we're talking about software applications in all forms.

The world's largest chip designer and maker now wants to have more of an influence in how all that software runs inside those boxes and inside new-generation data centers. To do this, it needed a new approach, and Sept. 11 it sent Diane Bryant (pictured) to the Intel Developer Forum here at Moscone West to explain it all.

New Devices Fueling Change in the Data Center

"This is all rooted in the drive for innovation around the data center," Bryant, Intel's vice president and general manager of the Data Center and Connected Systems Group, told eWEEK in an interview. "There is an incredible amount of innovation taking place on the device side, with more and more people coming online with more and more devices. All of that fuels the data center buildup."

Bryant outlined Intel's data center strategy, wrapped around several announcements involving new initiatives and products. "What I'm responsible for are Intel solutions across server, storage and network," Bryant said, "all aspects of data center infrastructure, from high-performance computing, to cloud service providers, to our standard enterprise IT -- as well as all the billions of edge devices, the machine-to-machine connections."

Bryant did not reveal much detail in terms of the corporate initiatives, focusing instead on general overviews of what the world's largest chip maker is planning. The newest products involve new 22nm Xeon processors and a cloud-system research tool called Cloud Finder.

The initiatives involve current hot topics such as big data analytics, high-performance computing and fabrics, security, cloud computing standards, and the increasing pace of cloud system adoption.

A Lot Has Changed at Intel in Five Years

"Five years ago, Intel was all about selling Xeon chips to the enterprise," Bryant said. "Before 2008, 75 percent of Intel's business was with three customers: Hewlett-Packard, Dell and IBM, in that order. Now all this change (zillions of devices, cloud systems, larger workloads, the rise of analytics) forces us to think differently: The data center is now the system! And the cloud is the interconnection of multiple data centers.

"Intel's entire history is built on 'innovate and integrate': innovate new capabilities, and then integrate it onto a silicon platform."

Intels News Announcements


Here are short takes on the Intel news announced at IDF:

New 22nm Xeon processors: Intel provided some details on two upcoming Intel Xeon processors -- the E5 and E7 lines. Formerly codenamed Ivy Bridge-EP, the E5s are targeted at parallel workloads, based on Intel's 22nm manufacturing process, and include the world's first production 3D Tri-Gate transistors. Introduced in 2011, they are expected to be in production in 2013. These processors are aimed to offer best-in-class performance, high energy efficiency and robust hardware-based security features, such as Intel Secure Key. 

The E7s, also based on Intel's 22nm process, were formerly codenamed Ivy Bridge-EX; they also are expected to be in production by next year. Benefits expected with these chips also include faster performance, advanced reliability features, substantially improved power efficiencies, and enhanced hardware-based security features, such as Secure Key and OS Guard.

Big data and the cloud system standards ecosystem: Bryant, citing the Cisco Systems projection that 15 billion devices will be connected to the Internet by 2015, announced the Intel Intelligent Systems Framework. This is an evolving set of interoperable, pre-integrated software/chip packages designed to enable connectivity, manageability and security across many types of devices in a consistent and scalable manner. "There aren't any standards in place right now here, and we're in a position make a difference," Bryant said.

This approach eliminates the need for hardware and software integration and frees up time for developers to focus on unlocking valuable data that exists on intelligent systems. Once sifted and analyzed, big data can help businesses increase efficiency, improve productivity and create new revenue-generating services. Companies lined up to support the Intelligent Systems Framework including Advantech, Arrow Electronics, Avnet, Axeda, Dell, Digi International, Kontron, McAfee (owned by Intel), Portwell, WebHouse and Wind River.

Intel also announced that it is working with Amazon Web Services to take advantage of servers based on E5 chips to deliver HPC services for big data analytics in the cloud. More information on that project will be available in the next few weeks.

AWS also discussed how it is allowing customers of different sizes including NASA, Yelp and many others to access their computing cluster, one of the top 500 supercomputers in the world, using their public cloud service to deliver big data analytics.

Finally, Intel said that its Hadoop batch analytics distribution, announced a few months ago, is beginning to get some traction among some of its current customers.

High-performance computing and fabrics: "Because HPC and the cloud systems continue to grow in demand," Bryant told eWEEK, "fabrics are going to have to come onto the CPU die. This fabric integration onto silicon will enable bandwidth scalability, power and system density helps remove bottlenecks and ensure the seamless flow of data in cloud and HPC workloads," Bryant said.

Intel, which acquired Qlogic's Infiniband franchise for $125 million last January, said it is now shipping its QDR HCA and switch systems optimized for HPC. Intel also announced today the availability of the Seacliff Trail customer reference board for software-defined networks. Seacliff Trail uses the SDN-optimized Intel Ethernet FM6764 switch silicon, which provides frame parsing capabilities and programmable pattern matching tables at ultra-low latencies. The FM6764 supports OpenFlow v1.0 with support for extensions such as VxLAN and NVGRE.

Along with the Seacliff Trail Reference design, Intel will provide a software framework from Wind River to assist customers in developing SDN solutions.

Intel Cloud Finder: Intel announced a new "matchmaking" software application called Cloud Finder designed to speed the search and selection of cloud service providers. While many IT decision makers want to adopt cloud computing, selecting a cloud service provider can be challenging. Cloud Finder helps to simplify that process with online tools and resources that can reduce a lengthy search process, and share information on best practices and strategies for deploying a public cloud.

Intel is collaborating with leading cloud services providers to offer an extensive assessment of their services against key criteria such as security, usability, quality, availability, technology and the specific business aspects of their offering. At IDF, the program went live to the public, enabling enterprise IT decision makers to use the information for research, comparison and procurement of public cloud services for their businesses.

The program is well under way, with 14 major cloud-service providers already on board. These are Applied Innovations, Atos, Dimension Data, Expedient, GoGrid, Joyent, MetaScale, NaviSite, QTS, Rackspace, Savvis, SoftLayer, Tier 3 and Virtustream.

Cloud Finder complements the existing Intel Cloud Builders program that was introduced two years ago at IDF to provide reference architectures for customers wishing to accelerate the build-out of cloud infrastructure.

Chris Preimesberger is Editor of Features and Analysis at eWEEK. Twitter: @editingwhiz

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