The Stack Archive News Article

Intel data centre customers turning to rivals

Fri 12 Jan 2018

Customers who use Intel chips in their data centres are considering using rival firms after a security flaw caused major slowdowns.

The Meltdown and Spectre bugs, which have been found to leave a massive number of Intel chips vulnerable to attack, have caused havoc for the firm. Passwords and encryption keys on devices that use these chips are vulnerable to theft.

Major technology firms that use Intel chips, including Microsoft, are having to roll out updates to make devices more secure. However, these patches are expected to also cause serious performance slowdowns.

As well as the possibility of a class-action lawsuit, customers now also appear to be heading to Intel’s competitors rather than deal with the performance slowdowns.

Those customers include data centre firms. Given that these data centres are the backbone of cloud networks, the change could have a major impact on Intel’s accounting books. Though a direct swap for cloud providers would be complex, there are likely to be decisions made going forward that will negatively impact Intel.

Competitors include AMD, ARM, or Nvidia, which produces GPUs rather than CPUs. However, these GPUs are increasingly used for workloads such as speech and image recognition.

A number of firms have indicated that they are considering using ARM chips, such as Microsoft for its Azure cloud services.

Gleb Budman, the boss at Backblaze, a San Mateo-based online storage firm, said: “If ARM provides enough computing power at lower cost or lower power than x86, it would be a strong incentive for us to switch.”

“If the fix for x86 results in a dramatically decreased level of performance, that might increasingly push in favour of switching to ARM.”

The news is a sharp turnaround from where Intel found themselves a few months ago, when its third-quarter results revealed record earnings, largely thanks to its strong performance in the data centre sector.

Brian Krzanich, Intel’s CEO, took to the stage at CES in Las Vegas earlier this week to address the problems, saying: “Security is job number one for Intel and our industry. As of now, we have not received any information that these exploits have been used to obtain customer data. And we are working tirelessly on these issues to ensure it stays that way.”


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