Chip colossus Intel has unveiled its vision for the future of corporate IT. In a global announcement today the company took the wraps off the Open Data Centre Alliance, to which $50bn-pa-worth of CIOs are already signed up and to which Intel has been appointed "non-voting technical advisor".
Intel architecture bigwig Boyd Davis, briefing reporters this morning in Geneva ahead of announcements on the US West Coast, also laid out his company's vision for "Cloud 2015" - the roadmap that he expects the global IT industry to follow in the next few years.
Intel expects to see three main elements in the new cloud architectures of tomorrow.
First up, new clouds will be "federated" - that is they will use common standards and be able to work together. Vendor lock-in and interoperability were apparently major concerns for the Data Centre Alliance CIOs as the organisation was being put together, and the federation strand of Cloud 2015 is designed to address this.
Secondly, new clouds will be "automated". Rather than sysadmins allocating resources and tasks - no matter how remotely and cleverly - they will simply set policies and the clouds will organise and adjust themselves in real time.
Intel says that this sort of thing is already happening, with companies using offices full of machines as Windows productivity suites by day and Linux data centres by night. Automation is expected to deliver efficiency in resources, another demand from the allied CIOs.
The final element in the Cloud 2015 triad is "Client Awareness", which is Intel's plan for coping with the 15 billion netted-up client devices the company foresees being in operation in five years' time: TVs, phones, computers etc etc. According to Davis, simply setting up cloud services - eg websites - for the lowest common denominator among all these machines will not do; nor will it be possible to provide separate portals for every type of client as some organisations attempt today.
Rather, Intel considers that tomorrow's clouds will need to be more aware of details of what type of device is connected to them in order to automatically give them appropriate content and services. Again this should all be more automated and compliant with standards (or perhaps "de facto implementations" adopted by the Data Centre Alliance members).
"This is a new day for Intel," said Davis. "A major announcement without any new chips or Xeons."
Intel insists that the Open Data Centre Alliance is not its lapdog nor an Intel user group. BMW IT chief Mario Muller, an Alliance steering ccommittee member (and himself overlord of BMW's 9-data-centre, 1600-terabyte, 1000 HPC corporate cloud) said that he and the other 70-and counting Alliance member CIOs controlled $50bn pa of IT spending, and that they are determined that the Alliance will be "vendor agnostic".
"Vendors will not be members," said Muller, briefing reporters including the Reg alongside Davis in Geneva this morning. "However we will work closely with them through workgroups," details of which he said would be announced shortly by the Alliance.
Already signed up as alliance members are such companies as Shell, Lockheed and UBS, and Muller says the group is keen to expand to cover as much of the IT world as possible. The alliance, in consultation with new and existing members, intends to produce its "vendor agnostic roadmap" in Q1 of 2011.
Any silicon you like - long as it's Intel
Intel says it will have no control over the Alliance, but it has been formally made "technical advisor" - indicating that it might get privileged access at the very least.
Vendors are also encouraged to work directly with Intel via its related "Cloudbuilders" programme, which already has such major players as HP, IBM, Microsoft, Canonical, Red Hat, EMC and Parallels signed up.
"If you're asking as a CIO, what can I do right now about moving forward," said Davis, "Cloudbuilders is supposed to be the answer". He insisted that kit developed early under this programme before the Alliance could hammer out any standards (or even "implementations") could still be replaced with the next-gen kit easily and simply down the road. The benefits of "federated" 2015 cloud are, apparently, already on offer.
"You can deploy the cloud today with no lock-in risk," he stated.
Talking to the Reg after the briefing, Davis admitted that a description of the Cloudbuilders scheme as "any silicon you like as long as it's Intel" was fair, but insisted that the chip colossus "does not have a unique advantage" in its position as sole advisor to the Alliance. Asked why there had been no attempt to include other chip makers such as AMD, ARM etc he told the Reg:
"Forcing the process to be less efficient by having more names involved would defeat the process."
All in all, it would seems that the new cloudy future from Intel and its allied customers and vendors could go any one of three ways.
It might, as Davis says, permit massive market expansion in which everyone gets rich as a booming IT sector hooks up billions more people to the worldwide net ever more efficiently and capably, with increased efficiency outweighed by expansion leading to climbing sales for Intel.
It might alternatively develop into a ruthless mechanism whereby Intel further consolidates its dominant market position, holding every part of the IT industry in an iron grip all the way from the fab to the end user and squeezing everyone else involved to the benefit of its own bottom line.
Or, of course, it may all fall on its arse and ultimately mean nothing. We'll just have to wait and see. ®