AMD Acquires SeaMicro — Big Bet On Architectural Shift For Servers

Richard Fichera

At its recent financial analyst day, AMD indicated that it intended to differentiate itself by creating products that were advantaged in niche markets, with specific mention, among other segments, of servers, and to generally shake up the trench warfare that has had it on the losing side of its lifelong battle with Intel (my interpretation, not AMD management’s words). Today, at least for the server side of the business AMD made a move that can potentially offer it visibility and differentiation by acquiring innovative server startup SeaMicro.

SeaMicro has attracted our attention since its appearance (blog post 1, blog post 2), with its innovative architecture that dramatically reduces power and improves density by sharing components like I/O adapters, disks, and even BIOS over a proprietary fabric. The irony here is that SeaMicro came to market with a tight alignment with Intel, who at one point even introduced a special dual-core packaging of its Atom CPU to allow SeaMicro to improve its density and power efficiency. Most recently SeaMicro and Intel announced a new model that featured Xeon CPUs to address the more mainstream segments that were not for SeaMicro’s original Atom-based offering.

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HP Announces Gen8 Servers – Focus On Opex And Improving SLAs Sets A High Bar For Competitors

Richard Fichera

On Monday, February 13, HP announced its next turn of the great wheel for servers with the announcement of its Gen8 family of servers. Interestingly, since the announcement was ahead of Intel’s official announcement of the supporting E5 server CPUs, HP had absolutely nothing to say about the CPUs or performance of these systems. But even if the CPU information had been available, it would have been a sideshow to the main thrust of the Gen8 launch — improving the overall TCO (particularly Opex) of servers by making them more automated, more manageable, and easier to remediate when there is a problem, along with enhancements to storage, data center infrastructure management (DCIM) capabilities, and a fundamental change in the way that services and support are delivered.

With a little more granularity, the major components of the Gen8 server technology announcement included:

  • Onboard Automation – A suite of capabilities and tools that provide improved agentless local intelligence to allow quicker and lower labor cost provisioning, including faster boot cycles, “one click” firmware updates of single or multiple systems, intelligent and greatly improved boot-time diagnostics, and run-time diagnostics. This is apparently implemented by more powerful onboard management controllers and pre-provisioning a lot of software on built-in flash memory, which is used by the onboard controller. HP claims that the combination of these tools can increase operator productivity by up to 65%. One of the eye-catching features is an iPhone app that will scan a code printed on the server and go back through the Insight Management Environment stack and trigger the appropriate script to provision the server.[i]Possibly a bit of a gimmick, but a cool-looking one.
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Suddenly, Dell Is A Software Company!

Glenn O'Donnell

The Dell brand is one of the most recognizable in technology. It was born a hardware company in 1984 and deservedly rocketed to fame, but it has always been about the hardware. In 2009, its big Perot Systems acquisition marked the first real departure from this hardware heritage. While it made numerous software acquisitions, including some good ones like Scalent, Boomi, and KACE, it remains a marginal player in software. That is about to change.

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Will Emerging Markets Bypass The US On Cloud?

James Staten

South Korea has better broadband than we do. Australia has faster wireless networks. And according to Forrester’s Internet Population Forecast, by 2013 the number of online consumers in emerging markets will dwarf those in the US and Western Europe. In Forrester’s Forrsights Budgets and Priorities survey, these same countries are putting far more priority on cloud computing than we are. Does this mean we could lose our lead in cloud?

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Verne Global And Colt Technology Show A Zero Carbon Data Center – It’s Real, Running, And Impressive In Iceland

Richard Fichera

Data centers, like any other aspect of real estate, follow the age-old adage of “location, location, location,” and if you want to build one that is really efficient in terms of energy consumption as well as possessing all the basics of reliability, you have to be really picky about ambient temperatures, power availability and, if your business is hosting for others rather than just needing one for yourself, potential expansion. If you want to achieve a seeming impossibility – a zero carbon footprint to satisfy increasingly draconian regulatory pressures – you need to be even pickier. In the end, what you need is:

  • Low ambient temperature to reduce your power requirements for cooling.
  • Someplace where you can get cheap “green” energy, and lots of it.
  • A location with adequate network connectivity, both in terms of latency as well as bandwidth, for global business.
  • A cooperative regulatory environment in a politically stable venue.
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Pushing The Envelope - SeaMicro Introduces Low-Power Xeon Servers

Richard Fichera

In late 2010 I noted that startup SeaMicro had introduced an ultra-dense server using Intel Atom chips in an innovative fabric-based architecture that allowed them to factor out much of the power overhead from a large multi-CPU server ( http://blogs.forrester.com/richard_fichera/10-09-21-little_servers_big_applications_intel_developer_forum). Along with many observers, I noted that the original SeaMicro server was well-suited to many light-weight edge processing tasks, but that the system would not support more traditional compute-intensive tasks due to the performance of the Atom core. I was, however, quite taken with the basic architecture, which uses a proprietary high-speed (1.28 Tb/s) 3D mesh interconnect to allow the CPU cores to share network, BIOS and disk resources that are normally replicated on a per-server in conventional designs, with commensurate reductions in power and an increase in density.

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BMC Acquires Numara Software In A Mid-Market Makeover: What It Means For Customers

David Johnson

BMC has a golden opportunity to take a different track with Numara than it has for past mid-market acquisitions (see Magic Solutions), and it must do so if it hopes to build on this one and drive new revenue for the long haul. Numara enjoys a massive installed base of customers with its Track-It and Footprints product lines in the small and mid-market. They have been hard at work rounding out their portfolio to include Client Management (software management, systems management, and OS management), and other areas. Numara has been on a journey to re-invent itself and has been succeeding. Further, we believe that the culture of the Numara organization and BMC's will align well, as long as Numara is given the autonomy and investment they need to grow their portfolio and momentum in the field.

BMC Will Need Time To Work
Numara customers should expect relatively little change in daily operations for the first few months, as BMC aligns the organizations. If history is a reliable guide, BMC will typically give a larger acquisition such as this the opportunity to remain mostly intact, and inject key people and processes to help align the acquired organization with the BMC culture and ways of doing business. If this holds true for Numara, customers should see it as a positive step.

Get Clear Direction From BMC In Areas Of Overlap

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2011 Retrospective – The Best And The Worst Of The Technology World

Richard Fichera

OK, it’s time to stretch the 2012 writing muscles, and what better way to do it than with the time honored “retrospective” format. But rather than try and itemize all the news and come up with a list of maybe a dozen or more interesting things, I decided instead to pick the best and the worst – events and developments that show the amazing range of the technology business, its potentials and its daily frustrations. So, drum roll, please. My personal nomination for the best and worst of the year (along with a special extra bonus category) are:

The Best – IBM Watson stomps the world’s best human players in Jeopardy. In early 2011, IBM put its latest deep computing project, Watson, up against some of the best players in the world in a game of Jeopardy. Watson, consisting of hundreds of IBM Power CPUs, gazillions of bytes of memory and storage, and arguably the most sophisticated rules engine and natural language recognition capability ever developed, won hands down. If you haven’t seen the videos of this event, you should – seeing the IBM system fluidly answer very tricky questions is amazing. There is no sense that it is parsing the question and then sorting through 200 – 300 million pages of data per second in the background as it assembles its answers. This is truly the computer industry at its best. IBM lived up to its brand image as the oldest and strongest technology company and showed us a potential for integrating computers into untapped new potential solutions. Since the Jeopardy event, IBM has been working on commercializing Watson with an eye toward delivering domain-specific expert advisors. I recently listened to a presentation by a doctor participating in the trials of a Watson medical assistant, and the results were startling in terms of the potential to assist medical professionals in diagnostic procedures.

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New Year's Resolution for I&O Professionals: Lead Consumerization From The Front

David Johnson

Step into my office, fellow I&O professional, and join me on a brief but rich journey of imagination. Imagine you're a business jet sales sales rep. Now imagine that this morning you went to the garage where you keep your company car and for the second time in a month, the key fob won't open the doors and you have no other way in. You have a big airplane deal on the table with the head of an investment bank in the city in 1 hour, and it's a 50 minute drive. Just then…as if to mock your dilemma…a voice from the car says "I'm sorry Dave, you do not have access to this car. Would you like to request access from the car's owner?" "IT'S MY CAR", you shout! You think of your boss and what she's going to say: "You should have allowed more time, Dave. Remember, YOU are responsible for your quota. Everyone has the same challenges. It's up to YOU to think ahead."

After an hour, the door unlocks and the car's voice apologizes. "I'm very sorry for the inconvenience, Dave. The motor pool coordinator forgot to add your name to the list of sales reps with company cars after the sales re-org last week. It has been fixed now." $%&#! you yell. You missed the client meeting and the deal, and you will also now miss your quota. To make sure it NEVER happens again, you start making other transportation arrangements. In fact, you think the new Land Rover Evoque fits your style and perhaps you don't need the company car after all. You're being paid on results, and excuses -- no matter how legitimate -- don't count.

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Choose A Cloud Or A Cloud Network?

James Staten

You've heard from us for a while that your cloud, whether public or private, should not be an island. Should this be true of your public cloud provider too?

A growing number of service providers are jumping into the Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) market not by building their own solution but by jumpstarting the effort with a cloud platform software provider like VMware, OnApp or CA. The benefits of this approach:

  • Faster time to market
  • Less R&D expense
  • In some cases brand equity
  • Potentially greater enterprise compatibility
  • And somewhat being part of a network of compatible providers
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