Placing The Data Center Bet: Intel Partners Take The Vertical Leap

Intel's portfolio is expanding into a number of new areas beyond the PC, and the data center is one of the company's biggest bets.

In fact, for 2016, Data Center Group revenue was up 8 percent to $17.2 billion compared with the previous year. And it's the company's partners that are key to such growth, according to Jennifer Huffstetler, senior director of data center product marketing at Intel.

Channel partners are essential to bringing Intel data center products to vertical markets and to small- and midsize-business customers, she said.

"We'll continue to invest in our broad ecosystem strategy, which is inclusive of the channel," said Huffstetler. "We have all sorts of ways we are supporting the channel. The channel has a unique focus and customer, or vertical target. And that's a big part of how they're creating differentiation, so the opportunity depends on the vertical segment a partner is targeting.

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"We have a long history of making sure we build the right appliance for the right workloads," Huffstetler said. "Our strategy has been very consistent — to build the best processors with the best features to support those workloads."

CJ Bruno, corporate vice president and general manager of global accounts at Intel, said the company's data center product lineup is second to none.

"We're serving up more ingredients for the data center than we ever have before," said Bruno. "That goes well beyond the traditional Xeon processor, with accelerators like Xeon Phi and our FPGA [­field programmable gate array] product line, all extending our ability to provide the best compute solution on earth in the data center."

One such product for the data center is the Intel Xeon E5 v4, which was built and launched last year for scale-out or clustered workloads such as cloud services or big data technologies for partners, the Xeon E5 v4 provides the ‑flexibility and scalability they need, according to Huffstetler.

The Xeon E3 1200 v6, meanwhile, is a single-socket quad-core Kaby Lake product. The Xeon E3 targets applications in entry-level workstations, small-business servers and storage servers, and is key for channel partners working with an SMB customer base, Huffstetler said. The E3 1200 v6 Xeon processors come with Optane Memory support.

High-performance computing is another area where partners play a big role in offering customized solutions to vertical markets that have higher workloads.

Intel in the summer began shipping second-generation Xeon Phi Knights Landing processors, which aim to squeeze more performance out of supercomputers.

Knights Landing, which has 72 individual cores manufactured on the company's 14-nanometer Tri-Gate Transistor process, succeeds Intel's current 22nm 61-core Xeon Phi version, dubbed Knights Corner.

"For [high-performance computing], the Xeon Phi family is really delivering incredible performance improvements over our prior platform," said Huffstetler. "We've been partnering with the industry to make sure they're modernizing their code to take advantage of Xeon Phi. For those [high-performance computing] customers, many of which are serviced by the channel, the Xeon Phi processor is a great product to meet the needs of those workloads."

Beyond processors, Intel offers a slew of networking technologies, including Ethernet for larger bandwidth performance, higher-performance fabric such as Silicon Photonics, and highspeed interconnect Omni-Path solutions.

Over the past year, the chip giant also has been adding deep learning and artificial intelligence capabilities to its processors. "We have so many innovations in the Xeon family to provide that flexibility and scalability customers are looking for," said Huffstetler.