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Every month, Intel UK organises an informal breakfast dubbed Views at Ten, with a different topic each month. Today's episode was about enterprise servers, with Alan Priestley, product marketing manager of Intel EMEA, talking about what Intel sees as the third generation of the Internet. Priestley said that business Web sites started off merely as online equivalents of brochures, while e-commerce using a combination of credit cards and printed out forms which were validated by human being was the second stage. The third, he said, would integrate different data from different Web sites to allow people to get the best comparative prices. The last, he said, "was massively complex using HTML". He said: "There's no seamless process.You can do it today using EDI, but it costs a fortune, it's complex and it's point to point." That, to us, posed the question of how Intel, which its CEO Craig Barrett regularly says transacts billions of pounds worth of Web business with its suppliers and customers, does it itself. Priestley said that even within Intel there were some problems to solve. "We're going to use XML techniques and XML is one way to do it," he said. "XML is the starting point on this. Seamless integration is the goal but we're not there yet. The third generation is about personalisation, individualisation and automation." The move to the Web will be accompanied by a revolution in application software. "The application layer is now king," he said. "You don't want to rip out your company database and start from scratch." This led to a discussion about how large corporations scale businesses. Priestley said: "One of the challenges is how people predict the power they need to handle headroom. The Meta Group is saying you need ten times the performance you think you need. You can scale by adding microprocessors to symmetric multiprocessing (SMP) systems or you can scale the number of servers. Clusters are also one way to scale." Priestley seemed to suggest that corporations that had already chosen Risc architectures for their mission control systems will need to think hard about their strategy in the future. We asked: "Will people have to scrap their Sun systems?" and in our mind was the recent unseemly spat between Intel and Sun over IA-64. He said: "One of the considerations is that you have to aask what the back end is. Most of the industry is happy with the IA-64 architecture [as the future].People have to consider what their future architecture is going to be and whether the application environment is going to be available on that architecture." He admitted that IA-32 and IA-64 architecture will co-exist. "IA-32 will deliver the best price/performance for some time because of the infrastructure around it," he said. "IA-64 won't be an immaculate conception with everything available on day one. We will have a range of solution stacks from day one on 64-bit." He added: "IA-64 starts to become important when people want to hold big memory databases in memory. Security is another important area." He said that IA-64 sales are all long-time sales. While the IA-64 chips will support 32-bit emulation in hardware, Priestley was unable to say at which speeds that part of the silicon would run, except to say that it would be comparable with current PIII technology. There will be no problems whatever moving code from the current Xeon processor to Foster (Willamette) implementations of SMP, he suggested. Priestley also spent some time discussing Infiniband, the trade organisation striving to create a future IO which will boldly deliver high bandwidth where no high bandwidth has boldly been delivered before. He said: "This will be a very fast narrow channel that allows you to connect peripherals outside the box." It would essentially be a plug and play system for servers, he suggested. For a while, there would still be some legacy PCI, he said. "In time, you'll have legacy-free servers," Priestley said. "Infiniband isn't just a connector, it's a switched fabric," he said. "You'll be able to stack up to ten multiple channels together to give a very fast interconnect. We'll develop silicon to drive Infiniband and a number of other companies will develop switches and other components." He said fibre channel will still be used in the storage arena, and it will talk to other IO based systems. The Infiniband spec now stood at .9, he said, and Intel would have "volume silicon" there in servers. Next Views at Ten: Bruetoof technology. ®

High performance access to file storage

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