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Intel told Seamicro CEO that Atom servers were not possible

Sees ARM vendors becoming a major force
Mon Sep 17 2012, 15:10
Seamicro SM10000

SAN FRANCISCO: SERVER VENDOR Seamicro was told by Intel that it was not possible to build Atom based servers, as it saw ARM based servers having a big future.

Seamicro made its name by flogging high density servers based on Intel's Atom processor. However Seamicro CEO Andrew Feldman told The INQUIRER that the chipmaker said it wasn't possible to build Atom based servers.

Feldman told The INQUIRER, "Intel was stunned when we told them we wanted to build servers with Atom, [Intel said,] no you can't do that. [We said,] what do you mean we can't do that? We're the customer. [...] Intel and AMD were doing the same stuff a little bit better. Who was being innovative?"

Intel for a long time had said its Atom processor was for "viewing content" and not content creation, which is nothing more than artificial market segregation for increased profits. Of course Chipzilla has changed its tune somewhat since then and will be launching Xeon S chips based on the Atom architecture. It no longer tries to stop server vendors from bunging Atom chips into servers.

Feldman said that while ARM chips are not quite ready for server use at present they will become a force to be reckoned with. "I'm a believer that ARM parts will have a huge impact in the server world. I actually have tested the ones available today and they don't quite get there, [but] that doesn't mean they won't, I think they will, for sure they will. And the volumes on them will drive the prices down and the business models around hundreds of licensees will drive their prices down and they will give existing vendors a run for their money," said Feldman.

Feldman also fired a warning shot at chip vendors and the server industry, saying they need to be unafraid of innovating, and even called out his new employer over marginal incremental gains. He said, "How can you go 10 years in a $50bn industry where no one builds anything that makes you say 'Wow'? And to say as many of them do, we are supply chain makers, which really means we grind poor people in Asia - that's what a supply chain company does - we make stuff in faraway places where labour is cheap, that's not 'we invent cool stuff'."

AMD in particular has gotten nowhere in the server market despite its AMD64 extensions becoming the standard for 64bit x86 processors. Feldman's comments regarding Intel's statements are not surprising, in that the firm likes to put up artificial barriers on its products. The firm's 60 percent profit margins provide ample evidence of that.

However that Feldman, who is now married to an x86 chip vendor, sees that ARM chips will become cheap enough to provide serious competition, might be enough for AMD to start considering shipping ARM based servers, even if it is through the Seamicro brand. µ


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