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Intel courts the cloud builders

Nancy Gohring | March 4, 2011
In an office building near Portland, Oregon, in a room next to a massive bank of cubicles, hums one of a group of small Intel data centers known collectively as the Cloud Builders Factory.

FRAMINGHAM 4 MARCH 2011 - In an office building near Portland, Oregon, in a room next to a massive bank of cubicles, hums one of a group of small Intel data centers known collectively as the Cloud Builders Factory.

Intel invites its industry partners here to experiment with hardware and software configurations and hammer out reference designs that service providers and enterprises can use to equip their data centers to offer new cloud services.

For Intel, the investments in the Cloud Builders program and other, similar initiatives are designed to help the chip maker hold onto its dominant share of the cloud server market in the face of looming competition.

"Intel wants to make sure that as people build these clouds, they are using Intel processors," said Nathan Brookwood, principal analyst with Insight 64.

This week, Intel invited reporters to tour the Portland data center, to see some of the reference architectures being demonstrated and hear from software partners who work with Intel in the cloud.

While some companies merely design products and sell them, Intel does much to shape the market into which its processors will be sold, even creating uses that the market may not have discovered yet by itself.

"Intel has always been very interested in trying to increase the size of the market it serves," Brookwood said. "A lot of chip suppliers just look at chips and say, 'We'll make the chip and someone else will figure out how to use it.' Intel has always taken an expansive view ... and tries to make sure that there are places for all the chips they can produce."

The Cloud Builders program is one example of how Intel does this.

"We have customers who want to do something in the cloud but they want a 'how-to' guy," said Jason Waxman, general manager of high density computing at Intel. "That's what we're trying to do with Cloud Builders."

Working with partners, Intel so far has developed 25 reference architectures and expects to have another 25 by the end of the year. They fall into two broad categories: building the cloud and "enhancing" the cloud. Each is supported by a white paper that describes how to set up the required hardware and software.

One reference architecture Intel showed off this week lets data center managers move workloads around based on the power consumption of individual servers. The example used Dell servers, VMware's vCenter management software and a software plug-in developed by Intel.

 

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