Intel: 'All your clouds are us inside'

Xeon and Atom in the eye of the storm


Cash cow and the piranhas

Those kinds of numbers are also the ones that attract competitors like piranhas to a cash cow that has wandered into the warm waters of the Amazon (puns intended) to be stripped of its flesh, down to the bone. If there isn't a quad-core or eight-core ARM-based chip code-named "Piranha," there should be, just to make Intel twitch.

The Cloud 2015 Vision is not just about chasing the exploding cloudy infrastructure business, or more accurately, the transformation of static server images on physical boxes to mobile, virtualized images that can move around a company or jump the firewalls to frolic on public clouds if they are given permission to. Intel is working with partners to create federated clouds that can share data securely across public and private clouds, to automate the clouds so administrators can go from managing dozens of physical machines to hundreds or thousands of servers, and creating middleware that can make clouds aware of the client devices they are interacting with and optimizing the delivery of applications based on the processing, video, and network capacity available to the client as well as its battery life, should it be a device not plugged into a wall.

All of this might seem pretty remote from a cloudy data center, but Waxman says that Intel is not losing focus. Because servers account for 50 percent of the total cost of ownership of a typical Internet data center over three years, and power consumption is another 23 percent, there is a lot that Intel can do to make it less expensive to do server computing and therefore leave more money for companies to acquire more iron. Labor accounts for 13 per cent of TCO, says Waxman, with networking representing another 6 per cent, facilities 5 per cent, and other items 3 per cent. You can bet Paul Otellini's last dollar that Intel is going to do all that it can to reduce those power, labor, facilities, and networking costs so companies have plenty of dough left over to splurge on servers.

The assumption is that the demand for servers is nearly perfectly elastic, provided there is enough power and space to keep them fed and housed. I have my doubts about this, but I seem to be in the minority. And I will concede that it may take much more server capacity to chew through data in many different ways than it does to generate and house it.

In any event, Waxman explained that Intel would continue to develop key technologies like ever-more efficient Xeon and Atom processors, solid state disks, and 10 Gigabit Ethernet adapters that were optimized for cloudy workloads as well as integrated virtualization-supporting circuits on those chips and adapters. Other key technologies that Intel is integrating with cloudy tools include its Node Manager and Data Center Manager tools for controlling servers and racks of servers. The Trusted Execution Technology (TXT) is going to play a role in the securing of clouds, says Waxman, and so are the AES encryption circuits.

Both made their debut in the "Westmere-EP" Xeon 5600 processors last year, and will eventually be cascaded across the Xeon line and presumably be added to Atom chips if hyperscale data centers start demanding low-powered boxes like the SeaMicro SM10000-64, which packs 256 of the dual-core, 64-bit Atom N570 processors into a 10U chassis, complete with networking and load balancing and with 4 GB of memory per processor.

TXT and AES are vital, says Waxman, to creating trusted computing pools and to allow for secure, encrypted migration of virtual servers from pool to pool. Now Intel has to get partners in gear and using these technologies higher up in the cloud stack. ®

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