pace with rapidly evolving technologies is a challenge
for Intel's channel partners. To make matters more complicated,
the market for servers is becoming highly segmented.
So Intel offers standard server building blocks, which
have been engineered for specific platforms. By Brian
market for enterprise servers is segmenting, which
makes it even more difficult for the channels to
keep up,” says R. Ravichandran.
Technology progresses at a rapid pace. Every few months
research labs announce breakthroughs that make electronic
components more efficient. On the enterprise server
front, rapid advances in technology have resulted in
increased segmentation. Hence Intel's customers find
it all the more difficult to keep pace with new technologies
and bring products to market. Not all of them can invest
time and money in R&D and few have the resources
to do research at the micro level. For instance, it's
difficult for Intel Premier Providers (IPP) to do engineering
or R&D across all segments before introducing products
in the market. The Enterprise Platform Group (EPG) at
Intel acknowledged this problem and devised a strategy
to develop the Intel architecture platform, help customers
keep up with technology and reduce the time to market
Ravichandran, Intel's Asia Pacific Regional Marketing
Manager, Enterprise Platform Group, says the market
for enterprise servers is segmenting, which makes it
even more difficult for the channels to keep up. 'Channels'
include local and multinational OEMs, small assemblers,
IPPs and Genuine Intel Dealers (GID).
"At Intel we call this Hyper-segmentation. Five
years back the Intel server market was quite simple.
You just had an entry-level server which is 2-way and
a high-end 4-way server. But in the last five to six
years we've seen the market segmenting," says Ravichandran.
The server range today comprises a single processor
server at the low-end followed by the two-way server.
In the two-way space, depending on the platform features,
servers can be classified in the Value space, Volume
space or Performance space.
Ravichandran explains that Performance servers are used
for 24x7 operations and so they have redundant power
supplies, redundant fans, and high level of reliability
and availability in the system.
Volume servers are basically single channel SCSI, with
expandability for I/O and so forth.
Value systems basically have a server board that disregards
scalability of the I/O drives (number of drives in the
system), SCSI channels and so on. Value is an entry-level
server with IDE drives, for small and medium businesses.
Besides two-way servers there are 4-way, 8-way, 16-way
servers and so on.
And the range has been further segmented in the past
18 months. Now there are Rack servers, Blade servers
and Server Appliances.
Ravichandran says the hyper-segmentation phenomenon
puts a big embargo on most companies because they cannot
play in all these spaces, themselves. That's why Intel
felt the need to develop standard building blocks.
"They (channel partners) take our standard building
blocks, configure the systems, and sell it under their
own brand," says Ravichandran.
Intel classifies its range of building blocks and services
as 'Visible' and 'Invisible.' The former includes processors,
motherboards, RAID controllers, server chassis and other
server components. The 'Invisible' blocks are the services
and tools required for enhancing/developing the platform.
This includes quality & design integrity, extensive
product breadth, solutions enabling & tools, training,
services & technical support, etc.
The Enterprise Products & Services Division (EPSD)
within the Enterprise Platform Group (EPG) is responsible
for this building blocks strategy.
Besides offering building blocks, EPSD is concerned
with taking an application, fine tuning it for the hardware
platform, and purposing it for a single function. An
example could be Clustering. Intel shows its partners
how to implement and fine-tune clustering solutions
on its server platforms. This involves training and
"The biggest thing we do here is validation. An
IPP or GID is more worried about chasing his next customer,
so we simplify that for him. When we validate a platform,
we test various hard disks, add-in cards, and peripherals.
We test a disk drive with our server and once it passes
through a set of internal tests, it qualifies for the
compatible list at our website. The channel partner
can refer to that list and take standard memory, a standard
hard disk drive, take an Intel platform, pickup a server,
and then sell to the end customer," says Ravichandran.
Servers must have a higher level of reliability than
desktops. So Intel does the validity for the GIDs and
recommends standard building blocks.
Although Intel does not certify products, it does assist
channel partners with certification.
Of course the main charter of the Intel EPG is to develop
platforms. It ensures that new processors are able to
take advantage of specific platforms.
"To ensure what kind of platforms are needed we
do periodic surveys among our customers (those who sell
systems). We also talk to end customers on a regular
basis to find out the issues they facelike server
management. As Intel is a building blocks company we
also have a Communications group which works on the
I/O sidegigabit networks, SCSI, fiber channel
etc. We ask this group what are the trends in I/O,"
A couple of months back Intel EPG launched 10 - 12 platforms
for the Xeon processor across APAC. It launched a range
of motherboards and chassis to drive Xeon platform in
the market placeto transition the market from
Pentium III to Xeon based servers. For this it offers
a high end server board with reliability features and
server management built in. This is ideal for departmental
servers and e-business institutions. It also offers
a low-end board for the typical SME customer who just
needs a server for file/print. So Intel EPG ensures
there are servers for various levels of functionality
at various price points.
Brian Pereira can be reached at email@example.com