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Prioritize effective execution, customers

Posted: 01 Mar 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Intel? Microsoft? processor? independent software vendors? software?

Gelsinger: Any ISV that doesn't stay on the bow of the wave really suffers in that vortex of Moore's Law.

Pat Gelsinger, senior VP and general manager of the digital enterprise group at Intel, has been with the chip giant since 1979. He discussed Intel's relationship and involvement with Microsoft, Xen and system builders in this interview.

EE Times: Aside from AMD, what keeps you up at night?
Pat Gelsinger: Our execution. Do we have the right product strategy, and are we executing effectively?

And beyond that, there are lots of things that keep me up at night. Are we satisfying customers? We have OEMs, tier-two OEMs and channel customers. Are we really understanding what they need, and are we delivering against it?

How has Intel fared in working with the distribution channel this past year?
Given our supply situation and product situation, we didn't have a good year with the channel in 2005. In 2006, the channel has seen a much better relationship with Intel. We've seen more market-share growth and have been giving them products and getting them supply. All of those things give partners an overall good feeling and attitude toward Intel in the channel right now.

How important is the channel to Intel with respect to OEMs? What's the current ratio of business split between OEMs and system builders? Does the channel represent more than 50 percent?
I don't know that we'd give out the ratio, but the portion of our business that's in the channel is substantial. Everyone on our executive branch knows that. The channel is not more than 50 percent of our business, but it's a substantial force. We take it pretty seriously. It's an important piece of Intel.

The channel tends to be a good complement to our OEM relationships. A few years ago, say 10 years ago, our channel was extremely important to us when we went to a new country like China. It's a great way for us to move into a marketplace, and we're using it effectivelyspecifically, to move into new market segments and sometimes, for introducing new products. Another example is small business. OEMs have never done a good job of satisfying small businesses, which need local touch and support. So the channel complements our OEM and big business, and retail focus. It's a symbiotic relationship.

Microsoft says small- to medium-sized business (SMB) is the fastest-growing market. What does Intel say?
We'd say emerging markets. Everyone refers to the "Mr. BRIC" countriesMexico, Russia, Brazil, India and China. We're seeing second-tier emerging countries like Thailand and other Asian countries. There's some growth in the Middle East, Turkey and clearly the Eastern bloc countries beyond Russia.

So Intel's growth is more geographically driven than segment-driven at the moment?
Yes. But beyond that, the SMB market has more strength in it than the enterprise or government segments.

With all the hype about Linux on the desktop and a new 'LinTel' world, it seems the open-source OS is failing to make gains in mainstream business desktop use. Why?
There's a lack of applications.

The launch of several ver 1.0 Xen platformsincluding XenSource Virtual Iron, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 and Novell's currently shipping SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10is expected to drive sales of processors, since Xen harnesses Intel's VT-x extensions. What do you think will happen?
We're enthusiastic about it, of course. I've got virtualization features in silicon, but the whole virtualization model has great value to IT pros. And we see that having a value even to clients with the vPro model and for appliance models. On the server side, we see Xen as absolutely great because VMware has been the only solution. You see Microsoft coming along with Viridian, and we've collaborated with them closely. I have a team of Xen developers. We are developing into the code base of Xen, making direct contributions.

Is it fair to say Intel is going to be partial to Xen? Will Xen run better on Intel's VT-x technology than on other virtualization platforms?
No, I love them all. They each have a different virtualization modela hosted vs. hypervisor modelso each has different strengths and weaknesses. When you go to corporate buyers, the VMware proprietary solution is strong there, unless they are a big Linux shop, have made investments in IT competence and have their own OS manager, even if they're getting Red Hat support. This class of customer may be more passionate to move to Xen. If your company has a heterogeneous data center, VMware is clearly a solution.

Where do you see opportunity for Xen?
No one is taking the approach to the midsize market, and that's where Xen has very interesting potential.

As Intel subsumes a lot of software services like virtualization and storage into silicon, how will that impact Intel's ecosystem?
There's a giant sucking sound, and the magnitude of the sucking is called Moore's Law. Independent software vendors (ISVs) need to keep moving to the next wave of innovation. For example, virtualization was once all software. Now, we're taking a piece of it and doing it in silicon. But does this mean virtualization software has gone away? No way, we're far from it. But some differentiation is in hardware, so now the vendors have to move to virtual machine monitors, virtual machine applications or data center-wide virtualization. You have to move forward, and any ISV that doesn't stay on the bow of the wave really suffers in that vortex of Moore's Law.

Why do whitebook builders continue to have a hard time? Any chance the climate will improve for them soon?
We hope so. Part of the reason is a lack of standards. So we've done more work to standardize building blocks of the notebooklike the battery, display and motherboard form factorsto close the barriers to entry.

Will Intel's next-generation Centrino platform, code-named Santa Rosa, give a lift to whitebook builders?
It won't be Santa Rosa. We have a mobile acceleration program. That's a structured program to address that weakness. It won't change overnight, but it will make the channel a more viable alternative to top-tier OEM notebooks. We launched it two years ago, but in a fairly modest way.

- Paula Rooney
EE Times

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