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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.