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Intel's Lisa Spelman: Why Optane DC Is Winning Over Customers

'The part that's been interesting has been—and I feel good because I said this before launch—was once we get the product in the hands of customers, they will do things with it that we didn't think to do,' Intel Xeon and Memory Chief Lisa Spelman tells CRN in an interview.

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I know Intel has a very large software organization. Is that change in perspective having an impact on hiring?

Where it's had a real impact is, we've always had an excellent team that writes more lines of code than just about anyone in the industry, about getting the base platform out there, doing those enablements and optimizations. But it's been fun to turn on the ideas. So if you look at us culturally, you might say that in the past, years ago, being a hardware engineer was king. It was the lead position, and now software engineering plays an equally important role.

I think that's allowed us to unlock or unleash some real hidden talent that we had inside of the company, and [it] also attracts more and different talent. So the software industry, we have people saying, ‘Yeah, I want to go there because I can get access, I can influence the new hardware and solve my problems.’

Project Athena has been very important for Intel on the client side. I know laptops are very different from servers, but have any of the lessons from Project Athena gone to the data center side?

Our assets of products and capabilities have allowed us to focus at much more of a solution level. So yes, Xeon is the base of our business, and it's the foundation. But if you would have looked at us several years ago, people would have thought it was unheard of for us to be investing in compute ASICs and FPGAs and silicon photonics. They would have said, ‘Why are you doing it?’ or “That might compete with the CPUs, so they'll never do it.’

And so we take a much more solutions level view now, and a system of systems [approach]. I don't know if you've paid any attention to what we've done over the past couple years with [Intel] Select Solutions, going through and driving workload configurations. It's not as flashy as Project Athena. I'm never going to get to stand on stage and hold a foldable PC—I would have to change jobs for that to happen—but I do get to occasionally do a demo of a Select Solution, which is born of that same mindset: How do we align the industry?

Another small example, CXL, which is the Compute Express Link. That's something where we're driving that across the industry, [saying,] ‘Hey, here's this definition of how we better drive data, move data inside the system.’ And we've got competitors as members of that consortia, we've got partners’ customers—and we're saying, ‘No, this is important for the ecosystem.’ Of course, we want to be best at it—all of those things—and that's our goal. But we are still able to recognize even in a competitive world when the industry as a whole and our collective customer base will benefit from some of that industrywide alignment at the solution level.

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