Rapid Data Center Evolution Forces Chip Makers to Adopt New Strategies
Intel, AMD and ARM are looking to address new workloads fueled by such trends as cloud computing, mobility, big data and social networks.
Andrew Feldman, corporate vice president and general manager of Advanced Micro Devices' Server Business Unit, likes to show a couple of photos to illustrate how rapid and widespread the adoption of mobile devices and cloud computing has been.
The first photo shows the crowd at the papal inauguration of Pope Benedict XVI in 2005. Except for the random cell phone here and there, there is essentially no evidence of a mobile device in the crowd. Fast forward to 2013 and the inauguration of Pope Francis and practically every person is holding up a smartphone or tablet, the bright bluish-white of the screens decorating the top of the crowd.
All those mobile devices are pulling down data and running apps that are housed in servers and accessed via the cloud, putting tremendous pressure on data center infrastructures. While the photos give a view of what's happening on the client side, it's what those trends toward mobility and cloud computing mean to the data center and to servers that is most interesting to Feldman.
To him, the photos put in sharp relief the changing nature of data centers—workloads are becoming more highly parallel as data centers support millions of users and growing. Demand for denser, highly efficient servers is also increasing, which puts pressure on chip makers such as AMD and Intel to change with them.
"This new environment is going to have new needs," Feldman told eWEEK in an interview this spring, "and the same-old, same-old will not work anymore."
Trends ranging from the cloud and mobility to big data and social media are forcing enterprise and service provider data centers to deal with growing amounts of data and changing workloads. Data center managers and designers are demanding new technologies to deal with the new realities where energy efficiency is as important as performance and server density is more crucial than server power.
At the same time, organizations are still dealing with tight IT budgets and smaller IT staffs that might not have the breadth of skills that that they need, according to Christian Perry, a senior analyst with Technology Business Research (TBR).
"Now we see customers looking to technology to solve their problems," Perry told eWEEK. "They're looking for products that decrease complexity and increase simplicity."
That is fueling the drive toward converged infrastructures, with tightly integrated compute, storage and networking products that are all managed by software and toward software-defined data centers, which aim to make infrastructures more programmable, automated, flexible and cost-effective, he said.
The rapidly changing data center landscape is also supporting the rise of new chip maker competitors, particularly ARM and its growing number of partners. The competition is getting more intense because IT organizations want infrastructures that are dynamic rather than static, automated rather than manual and that offer high levels of performance, but drive down such costs as power and space.