Infrastructure // PC & Servers
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11/15/2013
08:00 AM
Jim O'Reilly
Jim O'Reilly
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Intel's Mojo Returns

Intel is finally putting together a sensible set of solutions that should bring back marketshare in emerging markets and stave off challenges in its profitable server business.

Intel has lost a lot of momentum with the ongoing weakness of the PC industry. To be fair, much of this lies on the back of Microsoft, which failed to aim Windows 8 correctly, causing the PC sales momentum to stumble badly at a time when a recession and cheap Android tablets were eroding the market.

Intel’s foray into smartphones also suffered from software issues, primarily by not supporting Android from the start. These problems resulted in the rise of the ARM chip and the decline of the desktop x86.

Still, Intel has huge resources and a pretty good sense of the issues. More to the point, Light Blue is finally putting together a sensible set of solutions that should help it bring back marketshare in emerging markets while staving off challenges in its very profitable and market-dominating server business.

Now, what do we have as serious contenders? Let’s take a look.

Quark will enable Intel to enter the embedded and wearable markets. These are really low-power chips, and they look good up against MIPS and ARM. This market is wide open, huge, and just about to take off in concert with the Ethernet of Everything.

New Atom chips solve the mobile power issues in neatly by turning functions on only when needed. ARM does this, too, but Intel claims better overall power, and in the mobile space, that’s fighting talk.

Some of those Atom chips will be built as targeted SoCs for storage and networking gear. This is important for achieving small-footprint gear in the SMB market.

Variations of the Atom are targeting the nascent microserver market, with high core counts delivering much better performance per node, and yet more SoCs.

Nvidia is opening up its intellectual property to allow its GPU cores to be built into SoCs with standard CPU cores. Nvidia plans ARM-GPU hybrids, while AMD is already shipping x86-GPU solutions. These are going to grow up, with high-powered GPUs in the mix, and it’s a fair bet that Intel is adding its own x64-GPUs to next year’s pipeline.

These units are strong contenders for big data analytics business, which is the fastest-growing IT segment. They also fit the high-performance computing market.

CPU+memory modules are expected next year. One consequence of this type of approach is that the CPU can pack in many more cores, so even x64 servers will speed up a lot.

Intel has tackled the OS issue, too. I’m sure Paul Ottelini’s parting advice was "If you can’t beat them, join them." The next generation of notebooks will be 2-in-1 and will offer the ability to be a tablet, with a keyboard attachable, and price points will be very competitive. There are even versions that can double as a monitor, with an HDMI-IN port.

But the real wizardry is these devices will run both Android and Windows, in a take from Apple a few years ago. That will allow vendors to service four markets with a single product family, and that’s a very strong statement.

All in all, Intel is tackling its demons well now. It will get a lot of respect for new ideas and new approaches, and that will get it business in all these areas. But it will take a bit of time to change the bottom line, and a recent delay of a quarter in the Broadwell XEON product isn’t beneficial while the decline of the PC appears to be accelerating.

These are indeed interesting times.

 

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joreilly925
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joreilly925,
User Rank: Author
11/20/2013 | 11:03:48 AM
Re: Decline of whom?
It would be possible if user space is tightly segregated from kernel space. Unfortunately, today the use of kernel buffers mess that up.
Brian.Dean
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Brian.Dean,
User Rank: Ninja
11/20/2013 | 8:33:18 AM
Re: Decline of whom?
Yes that makes perfect sense, maybe in the future when we have next-gen operating systems tailor made for VDI/DaaS then instead of booting up a virtual machine for a user which to the most part is a security measure based on software, we might just have one huge operating system that just boots up user accounts, which again would be a software approach to security.
joreilly925
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joreilly925,
User Rank: Author
11/19/2013 | 3:24:24 PM
Re: Decline of whom?
Reboot is needed between users, to guarantee no data crosses from one user to another.
Brian.Dean
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Brian.Dean,
User Rank: Ninja
11/19/2013 | 2:17:39 PM
Re: Decline of whom?
Extremely interesting point, I am not completely sure as to how I should be thinking about VDI and DaaS but definitely one of the two is a big deal as I have since long been pondering the thought that VDI/DaaS has the potential to finish OS piracy around the world, provided that networks improve.

It also makes me wonder why would an OS have to boot up in a DaaS environment, can't it just remain on all the time, or in hibernation, and wouldn't running an OS on a standard server cut down on driver load time etc, maybe these things throw the cost benefits into the red area?  
joreilly925
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joreilly925,
User Rank: Author
11/18/2013 | 11:12:35 AM
Re: Decline of whom?
The PC business has sefveral years of shrinkage now, and is declining worldwide at double digit rates.
joreilly925
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joreilly925,
User Rank: Author
11/18/2013 | 11:11:19 AM
Re: Decline of whom?
There are two issues that block VDI accetance. Both are disk speed related. The most serious is the "boot storm" whrer loading lots of new desktop images at the same time bottlenecks the system and takes far longer than anyone will accept.

This problem is fixed with much faster IO speed, and SSD or flash solves that. I've booted 1000's of desktops in a few minutes using flash accelerators in networked storage and advanced cloning technology to create the clones from scratch very rapidly.

The second problem is the IO rate when operating. A spinning disk does around 150 IOPS, which doesn't go far across 64 virtual machines in a server. SSD gets it up to arouns 50 or 100 IOPS per VM, whether the SSD is local, or as is more usual, in a networked appliance.
virsingh211
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virsingh211,
User Rank: Strategist
11/18/2013 | 7:56:43 AM
Re: Decline of whom?
I would not say PC industry loosing in front of smartphone market but yes i have to admit that smartphones are growing like virus and Intel cannot afford to decline support for it, as they commited this mistake earlier which rise to ARM.
Marilyn Cohodas
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Marilyn Cohodas,
User Rank: Author
11/18/2013 | 7:49:50 AM
Re: Decline of whom?
Interesting that you mention that VDI is (finally) starting to get some traction, Jim. I've been picking up a little buzz about that also. Do you think it's SSD that's causing the tipping point?
joreilly925
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joreilly925,
User Rank: Author
11/17/2013 | 12:17:23 PM
Re: Decline of whom?
Brian, I think themobile market will swallow the desktop. All-in-one tablets, and wireless keyboards etc are pointing to the tablet as the screen on the desktop , with of course the benefit that you can pick it up.

New advances in storage for VDI based on SSD are making that appraoch really viable, too, so I expect the PC as we know it just fade away..over a good few years.
joreilly925
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joreilly925,
User Rank: Author
11/17/2013 | 12:13:22 PM
Re: Intel's course correction
I think this is a response to the ARM approach where the IP is for sale. Intel would like to displace ARM, especially in the coming market for CPU/GPU hybrids. I can see partnerships with NVidia. These could cover HPC number-crunchers and Big Data appliances, as well as a renewed attack in the mobe space.
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Server Market Splitsville
Server Market Splitsville
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