HILLSBORO, Ore. – Intel expects to more than double by the end of the year the 25 reference implementations for cloud computing it has available through its Cloud Builders program. The processor giant is leveraging interest in the trend to build closer ties with OEMs and others at a time when Intel's server franchise is under attack from alternative processor vendors.
Cloud computing involves running applications or accessing data on remote servers separated by a network "cloud." Amazon.com was one of the companies that pioneered the trend, selling to businesses extra time on the servers in its big data centers that run its online store.
The Cloud Builders program started at least 18 months ago, but was only officially announced by Intel late last year. About 30 Intel staff people are working with as many as 24 partners to create white papers and proof-of-concept demos addressing some of the thorniest issues in cloud computing.
"My objective is to teach the world how to build or improve clouds," said Billy Cox, a former Hewlett-Packard server executive who runs the Cloud Builder program for Intel. "We won't have 100 reference architectures this year, but we will have more than 50," he said.
Intel demonstrated a handful of the Cloud Builder projects at a recent press tour here. One of the demos took a couple of engineers nearly five months to complete. The demo involved moving a business application from one set of servers to another in a remote location while preserving its data dependencies and security policies.
"There is still way too much complexity here in things like different BIOS settings that are required for different workloads," said Cox, referring to cloud computing generally.
Intel also showed a way to extend the hardware root of trust in its latest processors to the virtual machines generated by another company's hypervisor software.
In another project, Intel developed a prototype application programming interface that would let an x86-based client system report its capabilities to a server. The API lets the server automatically decide which parts of an application it should run and which it can offload to the client.
One of the next big directions for the program is to work on what's called cloud bursting—techniques to automatically reset serer parameters based on existing policies and changing workloads and conditions.
Intel hopes to reap compound growth over the next few years of as much as 20 percent in its sales of silicon for servers and other infrastructure gear, said Jason Waxman, general manager of Intel's data center group. International Data Corp. said worldwide server revenue increased 11.4 percent to $48.1 billion in 2010, while unit shipments increased 15.3 percent to 7.6 million units.
Waxman referred to the program's white papers as how-to guides. "They are not fluffy documents but proscriptive ways" to address common problems implementing cloud systems, he said.
Intel's partners in the Cloud Builder program include OEMs such as Cisco Systems, Dell, HP, IBM and China's Huawei and PowerLeader. They also include third party server software companies such as Citrix, Microsoft, Red Hat and VMWare.
A recent U.S. government report said as much as $20 billion of the government's annual $80 billion in IT spending could be shifted to external cloud computing services.