SAN FRANCISCO — Just two months ago at the Intel Developer Forum, CEO Paul Otellini could only tell the assembled how great its new Penryn chip design was going to be, but still had to play a few cards close to his chest in terms of specifics.
Today, with Penryn now out and 12 new high-performance Penryn-based Xeons currently shipping from major OEMs, Otellini gave a full show here at Oracle OpenWorld, complete with the perhaps best demo an OEM partner could hope for: a graceful recovery from failure.
Otellini kicked off the conference’s second-day keynote with a quote from architect Frank Lloyd Wright, who once said, “Form and function should be one, joined in spiritual union.” That became the theme of his presentation: the increasingly small designs of Intel’s chips and their improved function.
To that point, Otellini spent much of his time talking up the newly launched Penryn, with which Intel moved to a 45-nanometer manufacturing process using a hafnium-based high-k metal gate, a radical change in processor design. Intel built its first hafnium-based chips in January, but work began on the process years earlier.
“Architects need to be prophets,” Otellini told the overflow audience in the Moscone Convention Center. “We need to think today about the products we need to ship many years from now. Work on the hafnium-based processor began in 1996 because we knew silicon dioxide would not scale.”
Otellini also got the opportunity to show off the reliability of servers based on the new designs, albeit inadvertently. One of his demos involved pitting a new quad-core Penryn Xeon sever against an older dual-core Xeon-based model. Almost on cue during performance testing, the on-stage server suffered a processor failure — yet the application being tested showed only a slight dip in performance.
Despite the obvious gaffe, the incident demonstrated that the new Xeon-based server system handled the problem quite gracefully. So did the Intel boss, who laughed it off.
Otellini also seized the opportunity to discuss Intel’s efforts to mitigate concern around cooling and power requirements. He cited a commonly repeated stat that for every dollar IT spends on hardware, it spends 50 cents to cool and power that hardware. By 2010, that cost is expected to reach 70 cents, he said — but added that Intel is working on solutions.
“Focusing on energy efficiency is becoming job one,” he said. “That trend clearly can’t continue and the cost is quite large.”
A second Penryn demo illustrated Intel’s efforts in the area, with a new Xeon 5400 delivering 67 percent better performance per watt compared to an older Xeon 5300.
During his talk about power issues, Otellini also welcomed Oracle to the Climate Savers initiative, in which vendors and other parties pledge to a 50 percent reduction of power consumption by computers by 2010. Members include Intel, Google, Microsoft, EDS, HP, IBM, Dell and Lenovo, as well as PG&E, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the World Wildlife Fund.
Oracle Executive Vice President of Customer Services Juergen Rottler took the stage to highlight Oracle’s efforts to lead by example in reducing server count, discussing how it had redesigned its Oracle University educational program. The program, which handles up to 350,000 students in 56 countries, reduced its server count by 70 percent, floor space down by 52 percent and power consumption by 47 percent.
Otellini congratulated Rottler on the move, but then wondered aloud, “Having someone drive their servers down 70 percent may be good for the business, but I wonder what it does for mine.” The sentiment may have been half-joking, but some industry analysts have made dire predictions about the future of the server market based on such trends.
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