Keeping track of the new competitors is tricky for Singhal. So far Intel only has two working chips from the group, a part from Marvell and one from startup Calxeda. Most of the gang of 15 expect to ship their first parts next year.
"It's Intel versus the rest of the industry," said one analyst at the Intel press briefing.
Singhal thinks he is ready for the onslaught. In recent years he has expanded from working on the big but power-hungry Xeon line, using core processors, to a new Atom-based family.
Last year Intel shipped Centerton, its first server chip using the lower-power Atom core. This year it will ship Avoton, a second-generation Atom server part, using up to eight new Atom Silvermont cores. It's the first Atom server chip to use Intel's 22 nm process and pack peripherals such as Gbit Ethernet and serial ATA.
So far, the Avoton design looks good on paper. Right behind it, Singhal and his team are developing a next-generation Xeon line called Broadwell, essentially Intel's current Haswell design moved to its 14 nm process. Singhal's group will even deliver a version packing all the Ethernet, SATA, and other goodies it is putting into the Atom-based Avoton as another way to save power.
Nothing comes easy, even the relationships inside Intel. As a top architect, Singhal often acts as a devil's advocate in his engineering team, inciting debates about key design decisions. It's an old part of the Intel culture known as constructive confrontation.
"You can't let people get comfortable with their assumptions," Singhal says.
There's some collegiality along the way. Singhal typically visits Intel design teams in Israel twice a year. They are already working on a new 14 nm architecture that will be the follow-up to the Broadwell chips.
Intel engineers also maintain close ties with the big 10 universities from which they typically recruit talent. The EEs coming out of Stanford and Berkeley like to stay in the San Francisco Bay Area, but those from the East Coast and Midwest schools will make the move to places such as Oregon where Singhal works and Intel maintains many of its design teams.
Singhal should know. He joined Intel in 1997 from Carnegie Mellon where he was able to make his first contacts with Intel engineers. It was his first job out of college and his only gig so far. Given his tight relationship with the chipmaker and some of its top customers, he's likely to stay quite a while longer.