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Intel targets rapidly rising microserver segment

Posted: 26 Dec 2013 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Intel? microserver? ARM? SoC? Xeon?

As a result of the increasing market for cloud computing and Internet services, the microserver space has also enjoyed amazing growth. This has allowed Intel to direct its efforts to gaining considerable leverage in the said segment. However, as the company continues to push its Xeon and Atom-based offerings, analysts identified gaps that other ARM-based SoCs will look to exploit in 2014.

Raejeanne Skillern, director of cloud marketing at Intel, said in an interview with EE Times that Intel actually defined the category back in 2009 and maintains a consistent definition of microservers, which hit has used publicly. That definition is "low-power, one-socket scale-out shared architecture" typically involving certain chassis and certain power levels, as well as fans and cooling.

"I started defining the segment in 2009 when I proposed the name 'microserver' for the segment," Skillern said. "One of the things we offer in this segment is the agility to move between Xeon and Atom within the product line. We believe stepping into 2014 that we have a leadership roadmap that spans all the segments."

Intel Xeon

Skillern pointed to the rack scale architecture that Intel has been designing and said that the designs Intel has been driving bring the next level of modularity and flexibility as well as power-savings and density improvements with higher I/O speeds.

Intel is in an interesting position with its Xeon and Avoton processors for this segment and with Broadwell and Denverton, two additional SoCs, waiting in the wings. Avoton serves the microserver space with cold storage and entry point networking. "We are continuing with our [Xeon] E3 product line," Skillern said. "We have Avoton which has today eight cores and what we call Broadwell-DE. That's a product line that will sit right between these two product lines, Xeon and Atom. You'll be hearing more about that in 2014."

Intel announced the Avoton processor and some of the latest microserver platforms such as those from NEC and Quanta that have switches built on Fulcrum into the microserver allowing for a 30 percent reduction in density. The company plans to bring in open network CPUs and switches into the box, Skillern added.

"Where the industry is going is towards software design architecture," Skillern stated, "which plays toward workload optimization. You can virtualize the server and put three applications on it."

In spite of these capabilities and features, as well as Intel's aggressive future plans for Avoton and Denverton in the microserver segment, the company is also seeing a challenge from chip design firm ARM and ARM-based SoCs from a number of smaller fish in the server chip market. "Without ARM shipping any kind of products in the 64bit range it is difficult to make that comparison," Skillern said, jabbing at ARM, which is still preparing to ship its first 64bit offerings.

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