The server market is at a potential inflection point, with a new breed of ARM-based microserver vendors challenging the status quo, particularly for cloud computing. We survey 20 modern processors to understand the options for alternative architectures. To achieve disruptive performance, microserver vendors must deeply specialize in particular workloads. However, there is a trade-off between differentiation and market breadth. As the handful of microserver startups are culled to 1-2 viable vendors, only the companies which deliver compelling advantages to significant markets will survive.
Microservers must Specialize to Survive
HP Wins Oracle Lawsuit
HP has won its lawsuit against Oracle over the Itanium platform. Good news for HP, customers and the industry, as Oracle is required to update and support existing Itanium software as long as HP continues to sell servers.
AMD’s Analyst Update
AMD’s new management took to the stage to highlight a new strategy and share the roadmap for 2012-2013. The executives generally came across well and there are only a few changes from the existing focus, with no major shifts. The updated server roadmap seems challenging, given the competition, but client systems should do decently and expand AMD’s footprint in mobile.
Medfield, Intel’s x86 Phone Chip
For 4 years, Intel has struggled to move into the market for mobile devices. Conventional wisdom holds that x86 is too inefficient for smart phones. The recently announced 32nm Medfield proves that x86 is a viable option and that Intel can design smart phone products. We explore the Medfield SoC and analyze the impact on Intel’s mobile strategy.
AMD’s Mobile Strategy
With all the recent changes, AMD seems like a ship adrift at sea with no clear strategy or vision. We look at AMD and where they are likely to head in the coming years for tablets and phones and explain why they will stick with x86, rather than embrace ARM as some have suggested.
Nvidia’s Kal-El Goes Asymmetric
Nvidia’s Kal-El sports a novel 5th ‘companion’ core to lower idle power. We look at the trade-offs and benefits to this approach and explain why it will be a strong tablet SoC, but only an incremental gain for smartphones.
Why Apple Won’t ARM the MacBook
Rumors aside, Apple will not switch their laptops to ARM any time soon. Despite Apple’s previous migrations, there are too many technical and business challenges and too few benefits. Moreover, Apple’s chip designers are better suited to enhancing the iPhone and iPad to fend off commodity Android systems. We look at the reasons Apple will stay with x86 notebooks for now, and how they might consider using ARM in the future.
Exploring the Intel and Achronix Deal
Intel recently announced they would manufacture 22nm FPGA’s for Achronix, a small start up. Intel’s process technology and fabs are the heart of the company. Opening up to third parties is a tremendous departure from the status quo – one that surprised and perplexed many people. Our analysis explores three possible explanations and infers that Intel is enabling complementary technologies rather than entering the foundry business.
8-Socket Commodity Servers: Flourish or Perish?
In the past, 8-socket x86 servers were proprietary, expensive and unpopular. With the imminent release of Nehalem-EX, 8-socket commodity servers will be a reality. The software ecosystem has matured, leading to more scalable applications, but at the same time, core counts have climbed dramatically. Is there room for 8-socket x86 servers in the market?
NAND Flash: A Classic Disruptive Technology
NAND flash is a welcome innovation in the storage market, but most analysis has centered around performance advantages for solid state drives (SSDs). This overlooks the equally or more important fact that NAND flash can be a less expensive solution than a hard disk for certain low-capacity applications. This is the classic hallmark of a disruptive technology.