Feeds

Otellini: ARM servers 'ain't gonna work'

Intel boss says ARM chips still in short britches

Gartner critical capabilities for enterprise endpoint backup

Intel CEO Paul Otellini has a low opinion of ARM Holdings' efforts to crack the server market, an arena in which Chipzilla's processors are the dominant force.

"It ain't gonna work," Otellini told his audience at Intel's Investor Meeting 2011 in Santa Clara, California, on Tuesday.

When asked what ARM would have to do to become a player in the server space, Otellini was dismissive. "The short answer is the architecture has to grow up," he said.

"The expectations in servers are pretty significant: 64-bit, error correction, multiple parallelism, hyperthreading capabilities, highly parallel systems infrastructure," he said, rattling off a list of what he considered ARM deficiencies. "All that has to get built around a new architecture, and historically that's been very difficult."

ARM, though, seems ready for the challenge. During their own analysts' day, also on Tuesday, the company's VP of software alliances James McNiven said: "We think server ... is a good opportunity for ARM. We're looking to apply the lessons we've learned over several different ecosystems over many years to that ecosystem in servers," PCWorld reported.

From Otellini's point of view, the ARM question is déjà vu all over again. "This is so reminiscent of the RISC-CISC arguments of, gosh, twenty-five years ago," he said. "But then the argument was the other way around, it was that Intel can never possibly take on RISC architecture in the server space."

He then allowed himself a bit of gloating. "Well, we kind of proved that wrong," he said.

"And now they're using that argument against us, to say they're coming in. It ain't gonna work. There's a huge legacy here," he argued, using the same tack as his software boss Renée James did when detailing why she believed that ARM was not going to succeed in the PC market.

Defending his company's offerings against the new wave of ARM-based microservers coming from companies such as Calexa and ZT Systems, and being investigated by Dell, Otelli said: "The elements of computing that are predicated to this kind of environment would be well-served and better-served with Atom-based, many, many-core kinds of microservers."

Why? The "L-cord" yet again. "We can preserve the legacy of the software – no one has to rewrite it – and you still have the power-performance advantages of Intel."

Otellini asserts that one reason Intel will maintain its server advantage over ARM is experience. "Power-performance advantages are a function of the architecture – not just the instruction set, but the compute architecture that you embed over many, many years," he said, reminding his audience that "We've been doing server chips now since 1990."

Although ARM claimed at their analysts' day that they're "partnering and investing with thought leaders" to develop a software "ecosystem", Otellini sees Intel's own software offerings as a competitive advantage. "And the software environment, you know? Who does compilers for them? Who does the tuning? Who does the multithreading tools? Well, we've got many thousand people to do that. They have to find those people," he said.

Without citing specific example, Otellini said that potential microserver partners agree with him. "So as we talk to customers – and this question comes up at both the OEM and at the user level all the time – they're saying, 'We need more performance, and at certain parts of the market, your Atom-based servers are going to be just fine for us'," he claimed.

To our ears, the amount of time Otellini spent answering this one question – and, for that matter, the amount of energy that many Investor Meeting 2011 presenters spent dissing ARM in mobile devices, PCs, and servers alike – makes us wonder if Otellini and his compatriots aren't a wee bit uncomfortable with the successes and ambitions of Cambridge, UK's pride, ARM Holdings PLC. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
The Return of BSOD: Does ANYONE trust Microsoft patches?
Sysadmins, you're either fighting fires or seen as incompetents now
Microsoft: Azure isn't ready for biz-critical apps … yet
Microsoft will move its own IT to the cloud to avoid $200m server bill
US regulators OK sale of IBM's x86 server biz to Lenovo
Now all that remains is for gov't offices to ban the boxes
Flash could be CHEAPER than SAS DISK? Come off it, NetApp
Stats analysis reckons we'll hit that point in just three years
Oracle reveals 32-core, 10 BEEELLION-transistor SPARC M7
New chip scales to 1024 cores, 8192 threads 64 TB RAM, at speeds over 3.6GHz
Object storage bods Exablox: RAID is dead, baby. RAID is dead
Bring your own disks to its object appliances
Nimble's latest mutants GORGE themselves on unlucky forerunners
Crossing Sandy Bridges without stopping for breath
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.