Intel's Romley products could put crimp in competition

Despite delay, Intel platform looks set to wow the server market

The upcoming launch of products powered by Intel's new Romley platform could make waves in the server sector, according to experts.

While high performance combined with better energy efficiency has long been a selling point for both AMD and Intel in the processor marketplace, Forrester Research Vice President and Principal Analyst Richard Fichera said that Intel has made the idea more meaningful this time around.

BACKGROUND: Intel moving forward on mobility

Although it's hardly a quantum leap, Romley, featuring the company's Xeon E5 chips, still represents a substantial step forward. What's more, for server vendors that utilize it, Fichera added, the advent of the technology should be a potent competitive advantage.

Combined with the advances that vendors like Dell, HP and IBM have made on their own, this could be a uniquely attractive time for an update. "My impression is that this is a very good refresh cycle for users to upgrade," Fichera said.

For his part, Otis Lackey, IBM global System x product marketing leader, concurred with the Forrester expert, characterizing the performance gains provided by the new Intel product as "even better than expected."

However, he noted, his own company's improvements -- including advanced vector extensions -- also contributed to the new heights of performance reached.

"We've taken that [improvement from Intel] and added some innovation of our own by supporting load-reduced DIMMs, [which] are able to support up to 768GB of memory across most of these systems," Lackey said.

Depending on the workload, users should expect a speed increase of between 50% and 120%, Lackey said.

Regardless of the exact figure, Intel's new release should have a pronounced effect on the market. According to Fichera, chief competitor AMD could be in for a rough ride in the immediate future.

"This will put a lot of pressure on AMD, and the performance differences. This will give Intel an edge over AMD on a lot of common workloads. Basically, it ratchets up the competition once again," he said.

Romley's launch this week has gone partially under the radar as far as Intel is concerned. The headlines relating to the company have been dominated by conflicting reports over delays to another new product -- the company's Ivy Bridge line of processors.

However, if the platform makes a big enough splash, that could change quickly.

Jon Gold covers Intel, among other things, for Network World. Email him at jgold@nww.com and follow him on Twitter at @NWWJonGold.

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