Word is leaking out about how Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) plans to counter ARM’s march in to the server side, including the new 8-core CPU. From this vantage point, it looks like too little, far far too late.
The first big news is that the new chip is called Avadon or Abadon, accents and scratchy international phone calls don’t give exact spelling, but it sounds really like that. In any case, it is the new 8-core 22nm Atom aimed at servers. According to insiders, people shouldn’t expect to see this beastie until late 2013, there is no silicon floating right now, if it even exists.
This part will mark the debut of the new Atom core, all the current variants have had the same version with little to no tweaking. Av/badon is described by people who know as a 2 pipe, mildly out of order (2 pOoO) chip with performance that is about 20-25% higher than the current one, clock for clock. No word on projected power efficiency, but this will likely be more dependent on the rest of the SoC, so it should vary a lot.
In the end, we don’t think this chip will matter. It looks to all the world like a panicked reaction to ARM, a classic solution in search of a problem. It is far too late, more than a year after the first solid competition ships, and a year after the first ARMv8 chips are shown off. By the time Av/badon and it’s brethren ship, ARM will have either proven or disproven the market for this kind of server.
That is the key point in all of this, the market for this kind of server. What is that market? Who wants to buy these many-core, shared little or shared nothing boxes? Does it exist? How big it? Is there a killer app, or is it lots of little apps that kill by sheer volume? Either way, there are enough boxes shipping, SeaMicro was really the first in the space, and a swarm of ARM variants on the near term horizon. By the time Av/badon comes out, there will hopefully be a fiercely competitive market for it.
At that point, Intel will have to do better than the sterling job it did convincing the phone market that Atom was worth paying more than ARM for a less compatible chip with questionable drivers. We all know how well that one ended, don’t we? It may be a bit early to call this part of the server market game over for Intel, but, well, if anyone cares by late 2013, they won’t care about high margin x86 products in this segment. Too little, far far too late.S|A
Editor’s note: As of June 20, 2012 Intel corrects the server name for us “Avoton” It only took them 7.5 months.