At the Intel Developer Forum (IDF) this week, providers of IT services were given a glimpse of how Intel plans to transform the delivery IT services by the end of the decade.
For past two years Intel has been driving the development of a raft of 5G technologies that promise to transform how networks are built, deployed, and maintained by the end of the decade. Instead of relying on a hodgepodge of physical appliances to deliver networking services, Intel envisions multi-core processors being used in industry-standard servers to process functions that once required a dedicated ASIC processor. The goal is to reduce both the number of network hops between appliances inside any given data center while simultaneously reducing the total cost of delivering network services.
At the core of much of that effort is an open source Data Plane Development Kit (DPDK) created by Intel that makes it possible to dramatically reduce the number of compute cycles required to send and receive packets using multicore processors.
Intel also showed how it intends to employ photonics to drive development of 100 Gigabit-per-second networks. The technology has been under development for more than a decade, but this week Microsoft and Intel announced that Microsoft has begun to employ these silicon photonic modules inside Microsoft Azure data centers.
AT&T and Intel, meanwhile, revealed that they've signed a long-term agreement under which the carrier with gain early access to a broad range of technologies that Intel has under development.
It will be interesting to see how much the line between cloud service providers and carriers will continue to blur. AWS and Microsoft use extensive carrier networks today, but Google has its own fiber network. As Intel helps drive down the cost of delivering network services, both AWS and Microsoft are sure to expand the types of network services they offer. Carriers such as AT&T and Verizon, meanwhile, have already made investments in becoming cloud service providers.
Intel claims that more than half the processors used by the major cloud service providers are now custom built. That shift has significant implications for smaller cloud service providers that rely entirely on commodity processors. It’s clear that the major cloud service providers are leveraging their financial muscle to pay Intel to develop processors that are optimized for specific types of application workloads. Access to that level of engineering will undoubtedly make it harder for smaller cloud service providers to compete.
Impact on IT service providers
IT services providers of all sizes should pay close attention to what Intel is up to in the networking space. Its moves here influence just about every part of the Intel strategy. Ultimately, Intel envisions being able to drive 10 Gigabit-per-second wireless bandwidth down to a single user. That capability will then enable new classes of mobile computing devices to consume, for example, multiple forms of immersive 3D content, including augmented and virtual reality applications. Naturally, new devices will be needed to consume those applications.
Of course, for all of this to actually happen almost every aspect of IT needs to transform. There’s even an Intel Network Builder University to help organizations get the skills needed to drive the shift to 5G platforms. For IT services providers that make their living by providing the expertise needed to drive those transformations, the 5G future is looking very bright indeed.