Rapid Data Center Evolution Forces Chip Makers to Adopt New Strategies
During the two-day workshop in San Francisco, Intel executives laid out the company's strategy for transforming the data center, with organizations migrating toward software-defined infrastructures. In these data centers, resources like compute, storage and networking will be pooled, and applications will automatically draw the resources they need to run and then return those resources back to the pools for other applications to use. Intel officials touched on evolving rack architectures that eventually will offer pools of compute, storage and networking resources that can be accessed by applications as needed, silicon aimed not only at servers but also storage and networking products, and an SoC methodology that integrates such features as I/O, security and memory onto the silicon. These factors enable Intel to offer products that are more optimized for particular workloads, such as differentiating between systems that run more compute-intensive applications from those that need more networking or memory capabilities. Intel also laid out an aggressive road map that includes ramping up development of its low-power Atom platform for the nascent microserver market. The chip maker already offers its Atom S1200 "Centeron" SoC. Later this year, it will roll out the 22-nanometer "Avoton" chip, which will be based on the "Silvermont" architecture and will offer significant improvements in performance and energy efficiency. In 2014, Intel will introduce "Denverton," a 14nm Atom SoC for highly efficient servers. Intel also next year will introduce an SoC version of its "Broadwell" Xeon E3 chip optimized for particular workloads in the Web hosting space.The move highlights the company's heterogeneous computing approach, offering customers both x86- and ARM-based server silicon. ARM has no real presence in the data center, but given the trends in the industry and the demand for low-cost, low-power architectures, AMD's Feldman believes that ARM could account for as much as 20 percent of the overall server chip market by 2016. "We've relaxed our religious commitment to x86, and we've embraced ARM," Feldman told eWEEK, adding that given its history in the server chip market, strong OEM relationships and broad IP, AMD will become a dominant ARM partner. ARM's presence in the data center will have a significant impact over the next few years, he said. "I think we're going to see unbelievable [stuff] with this," Feldman said. "It's going to be spectacular." TBR analyst Perry said AMD is making smart moves as it tries to get back onto more firm financial footing. Partnering with ARM and focusing on energy-efficient systems "is their best shot to be relevant again."
It's in this area that the competition will be fiercest. AMD in May unveiled its x86-based Opteron X-Series Kyoto chip for microservers, a part of the industry that company officials view as a key growth area. AMD is putting a lot of money and effort behind the microserver space, having acquired SeaMicro and its Freedom Fabric technology in February 2012, and it's active in the open hardware movement. At the same time, AMD officials have said that they will start offering server chips based on ARM's technology starting next year, when ARM's 64-bit ARMv8 architecture hits the market.