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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.

The plug-in lets users set a maximum power consumption for each server. If the server reaches that threshold, the software shifts part of the workload to a server that is using less power, keeping power consumption balanced across the data center. The white paper describing the setup is on Intel's Cloud Builders website.

Another reference architecture uses software from Citrix Systems to migrate workloads between a private cloud and a public cloud. It sets up a secure tunnel and retains settings for security and networking and even the IP address for the workload. Citrix demonstrated moving a workload from Intel's Cloud Builders data center in Folsom, California, which Intel treats as a private cloud, into the Hillsboro, Oregon, facility, which acts as the public cloud.

In addition to those data centers, Intel has small labs in Belgium, India and China that are also used to test reference designs. The sites have 150 servers combined and can simulate 5,000 virtual machines and more than 15,000 desktops, said Nikhil Sharma, director of cloud solutions for Intel's Cloud Builders Factory. Intel also makes about 10 terabytes of storage available for partners to provision servers and test applications.

Intel invited some partners this week to show off a few products for the cloud. Parallels showed how its software helps cloud providers design and offer packages of services to small and medium-size businesses. Oxygen Cloud demonstrated a service that lets end-users share and access corporate documents securely from devices such as smartphones and tablets. HyTrust showed how its appliance enforces policies in a data center so that administrators don't accidentally move workloads where they shouldn't go.

It's not unusual for large vendors to promote their products using reference architectures. But the variety of products and services on display highlights the wide net Intel has cast to help grow the overall cloud market and retain its dominant share. While Intel leads the x86 server market by far, it has competition "looming in the distance," Brookwood said.

The industry is shifting to a model in which an increasing amount of computing is done in the cloud and delivered to handheld devices, which are powered predominantly by ARM-based processors. Historically, more computation was done on the client, most often a PC or notebook running an Intel chip, he said.

In addition, some cloud providers are looking at alternative, lower-power ARM chips for certain server workloads. "We will see more and more servers based on ARM because of the power savings users believe they can get," Brookwood said.


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