Intel Channel Exec Talks Computer Refresh, SSDs and Partner Base Expansion

By Jessica Davis  |  Print this article Print

Intel's introduction of its Westmere EP Xeon processors and their inclusion in server systems from Dell, HP and IBM may have headlined the chip giant's Intel Solutions Summit. But channel partners also got a peek into the momentum behind SSDs, a planned expansion of Intel's channel partner base, and a look at Intel's view of how desktops and client computers are being differentiated into distinct categories.

Intel has rolled out a new line of six-core Westmere EP Xeon processors with new systems coming from computer vendors such as Dell, HP and IBM. The public introduction coincides with the chip giant’s Intel Solutions Summit in Las Vegas with the company’s system builder and other channel partners.

The new server processors offer better energy efficiency with either 40 percent more performance per watt or 30 percent lower power, according to Intel. In addition, they provide either a 60 percent performance increase or enable server consolidation of 15 servers on a single physical server, said Eric Thompson, director of North America Distribution Sales and Channel Marketing.

That’s the kind of server upgrade that offers customers a return on investment in just five to seven months, according to Thompson.

The news comes at a time when the market for PC and server computer hardware is facing a transformation driven by server consolidation and virtualization at the top coupled with initial tentative moves toward thinner and virtualized clients. Intel’s moves toward purpose-built PCs such as all-in-one devices, as well as its development efforts around its Atom processor, which has been popular for netbooks, hedge the bets at the client side.

However, Thompson said that in spite of the recession of 2008 and 2009, sales of desktop PCs in business settings actually increased in 2009. Plus Intel is seeing momentum in areas such as solid-state drives (either instead of hard disk drives or in addition to them in PCs).

Intel added the category in 2008, and Thompson noted that SSD sales growth at Intel doubled each quarter over quarter during 2009.

"While we are not done with the quarter yet, we are on that same trajectory in Q1 and have high expectations for the line," Thompson said. "The category is exploding and going into every segment you can think of."

SSDs offer five times lower power consumption than a hard disk drive and over 100 times the I/O performance over HDDs, according to Intel.

"SSDs are really revolutionizing storage," Thompson said.

In terms of client platforms, Thompson characterized the current evolution going on as a "resurgence in differentiation in the desktop that we haven’t seen in a few years." Desktop PCs for business are focused on total cost of ownership (TCO), manageability and productivity. End customers are looking for innovative form factors.

Meanwhile, for the systems builders creating performance PCs for gaming, Intel notes that much attention is given to special features such as overclocking and custom chassis.  All-in-one "lifestyle" PCs are showing up as kiosks in business settings or as internet/e-mail PCs in the home.  "It’s a segment of the market that is growing rapidly," said Thompson.

In addition to its big server chip news and discussion of client differentiation, Intel also talked about plans to expand its partner base in the SMB space. By nature, Intel’s main partner program focuses on systems builders—those who consume boards or other building blocks.

"But it’s important to connect with other solution providers around things like vPro because they can help end customers understand how these features enable new services and can lower total cost of ownership," Thompson said. "They have more of a solutions orientation than a product one." So Intel plans to do a better job of reaching out to these solution providers going forward.

Jessica Davis covers the channel for eWeek and Channel Insider. Her technology journalism career began well before anyone heard of the World Wide Web and has included stints at Infoworld, Electronic News/EDN, and the Philadelphia Business Journal. Her work has also appeared on CNN and Forbes.com. She has covered hardware, software and networking, as well as the business side of technology. She has won several journalism awards, including a national ASBPE award for best staff-written column, and was named Marketing Computers hardest working tech journalist on their inaugural list of top tech journalists. Jessica can be reached at jessica.davis@ziffdavisenterprise.com