Intel Expanding Motherboards For Business And HPC


Intel’s EPSD unit will grow its motherboard and chassis offerings and software capabilities in 2012

Intel is continuing the aggressive expansion of its hardware, software and services used by OEM computer systems makers.

In the first half of 2012, Intel’s Enterprise Platform and Services Division (EPSD) will roll out 12 new platform offerings – such as motherboards for servers and workstations – that not only will hit mainstream enterprises, but also will be targeted at such areas as high-performance computing (HPC), cloud computing environments, embedded devices and smaller businesses.

Filling in the gaps

The announcement was made at a press briefing during the SC 11 supercomputing show in Seattle, Washington State, by Lisa Graff, vice president and general manager of Intel’s Platform Engineering Group. She said the new products are part of a larger rollout of offerings that began when she took over the business two years ago.

Intel has been in the business of selling to systems makers for a couple of decades but Graff said the company needed to expand what it offers.

“We probably had some gaps in our [product line-up],” she told eWEEK. She noted that EPSD’s customers – from server makers like Penguin Computing, SGI and Appro to storage product providers like Symantec and iXsystems – cover a wide range of computing needs. “They do it all, so we have to do it all to be successful.”

The new motherboards, rolling out the first half of next year, touch on everything from half-width boards for HPC environments to other products for virtualisation and workloads that call for high-end I/O and high amounts of memory. There also are new chasses that offer such differentiators as cooling capabilities on every node, and new systems.

The motherboards also will support Intel’s latest Xeon E5 Sandy Bridge processors, which offer up to eight cores and are designed for such environments as HPC and virtualisation. Earlier at the show, Intel executives touted the performance and energy-efficiency capabilities of the Xeon E5.

Supercomputer favourites

During her press briefing, Graff noted that of the 10 systems on the Top500 list of the most powerful supercomputers that use the Xeon E5, six of those are based on products from EPSD.

In addition, Graff said, after the new 12 offerings are launched in the first half of 2012, more will be hitting the market later in the year. Intel also is planning to enable EPSD hardware offerings to support the company’s upcoming Many Integrated Core (MIC) coprocessors, which are designed to work with the chip maker’s CPUs to offer parallel-processing capabilities.

Earlier in the week at SC 11, Rajeeb Hazra (pictured), general manager of Intel’s Technical Computing Group, showed off the first of the MIC coprocessors – a chip with more than 50 cores named Knights Corner – as well as a test system powered by the product.

“We’ll build [into the EPSD motherboards] the capability to support them,” Graff said.

She said that when she came to EPSD, the feedback she got from systems makers was that they wanted more products – more boards, more systems, more chasses; they wanted offerings beyond hardware, in software and services; and they wanted Intel to keep up the quality and technical support. Since then, Intel has rolled out three times the number of hardware SKUs, and has rapidly evolved its software and services capabilities.

In 2011, Intel’s EPSD grew the services its partners could sell to end users, and expanded its software offerings, with such products as Intel Multi-Server Manager, which enables businesses to manage up to 100 servers at the same time. In addition, the company is rolling out the new Intel Continuity Suite, which lets users manage their virtualised servers, RAID, and hardware backup and recovery from the same interface. Until now, all those areas had to manage through separate windows.

The goal is to simplify the management hassles that come with virtualisation, Graff said. “Virtualisation can be challenging, especially for SMBs [small and midsized businesses],” she said during the press conference.

The full Continuity Suite will be available in 2012.

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