Intel thinks the future is looking very cloudy-in a good way.
With headliners such as Google, Amazon, VMware and Microsoft-not to mention smaller Web 2.0 outfits-beginning to embrace cloud computing as the answer to their long-term computing needs, Intel is determined to become an "arms dealer" of sorts, supplying the server chips to make the required data centers a reality.
"We expect to see, by 2012, a substantial portion of the server market will be running some version of cloud computing," said Jason Waxman, general manager of high-density computing for the Intel Server Platforms Group, during a presentation. "Right now, as much as 14 percent of server purchases are going into some sort of cloud deployment."
By 2012, Waxman added, Intel predicts that some 20 to 25 percent of its server chips will be dedicated toward data centers that power cloud computing.
Fortune 500 companies looking to adopt their own private clouds will also be a part of this data center race.
Intel, of course, would like to become the major supplier to those entities building clouds, positioning its products as the ideal way for firms such as Google to optimize their data centers. In this view, products such as the Intel Dynamic Power Node Manager, which monitors and manages power usage in the data center, would cut down on power costs, while software optimization solutions would save money in other areas.
In the type of large data centers needed to power the cloud, where as many as 50,000 servers may be racked together, a 10 percent energy-efficiency improvement could save around $6 million, according to Intel estimates. Software optimization on tens of thousands of servers could likewise save an organization up to $20 million.
Underpinning the cloud architecture, of course, is virtualization-and in that area, Intel finds itself in competition with Advanced Micro Devices, which has also been developing processors capable of handling the workloads that come with virtual environments.
As Intel moves to utilize its components for organizations looking to develop cloud architecture, AMD will doubtlessly take steps to provide an alternative solution for processing power.
Waxman also sees a cautious adoption of the cloud on the part of the enterprise.
"The cloud has promise, but we're trying to be pragmatic," he said. "With small to medium-sized businesses, companies are asking, -Do I need lots of infrastructure, or can I do software as service?' And the enterprise is cautious. They're thinking that now's the time to start the evaluation and path to it, as opposed to just jumping in."
While Intel sees cloud computing as gaining sizable momentum only in the next few years, some analysts are already arguing that embracing the cloud can save organizations money as they struggle through the current economic doldrums.