While PC sales have not been falling as quickly, the question of other consumer device slowdowns has been part of the weekly industry conversations. On the other side of the devices though, is the growth that is steadily building on the server and data center side. Increasingly, more retailers are finding themselves with customer demand for online support and services, and those who already provide such services are seeing growth in online users. With the continued expansion and improvements in wireless data transfer, 5G and 4G launches globally, and the growth of the Internet of Things, the turf wars among the largest companies in the industry are heating up.
Competition heats up server space
Intel and IBM are overtly going toe-to-toe in the server space, definitively marking the focus on data centers after many companies have been hurt by the declining (but now steadying) PC demand. April brought quite a bit of news concerning the heated competition for the largest data centers as this service sector is seen as a growth area with increased machine-to-machine (M2M) communication and therefore significantly higher data transfer and storage demands to come.
Intel and IBM are not new to competing in the server space, to be sure, but what is changing is the momentum and strategic focus on this market. Historically, as ComputerWorld recently noted, Intel's Xeon chips have chipped away at IBM's Power business for Unix servers. However, the Unix server market has been declining and that is a leading driver behind the renewed competitive moment between these two Goliaths.
IBM's approach is focused on the market demand for more open, low-cost, multivendor, white box system designs that can be customized from the design and build phases as the online service providers see fit for their specific business goals and tasks. Furthermore, with low-cost models for even the largest customers, such as Google and Facebook, having scalable solutions to meet unique demands is a critical strategy and offering. This type of demand marks a change in the server market sector but with the amount of hardware purchase and money at stake, their demands for customized solutions hold great weight. IBM has formed an alliance of now 26 members (many global leaders) called the OpenPower Foundation, as ComputerWorld details.
Intel is continuing to support its Xeon chip series, but recognizing the need to better support the growing retail and banking sectors as their respective customers demand more online services, Intel released a new Xeon series back in February. As Reuters reported from the Intel press conference during the time of the release, the Xeon E7 v2 chip "[…] is twice as efficient as its previous generation and allows more data to be held in memory instead of on hard drives so that it can be quickly analyzed."
Intel's E7 v2 chip is part of the Xeon Processor family and the latest Ivy-Bridge EX chip with 15 cores, boasting quite a bit of power and also supported by Intel's defined Data Center Group and strategies.
Toe-to-toe there are a number of differences in the IBM-Intel server solution line up making this an interesting competition to monitor and gauge the direction of the growing data center market as it encompasses more retail and service providers due to the growth of M2M.