During the dot.com boom, then-HP CEO Carly Fiorina espoused a notion that she called good-enough computing. In short, Fiorina argued that despite significant differences in performance between existing x86 servers and Unix and other enterprise class systems, the dramatically lower cost of x86-based products would inspire organizations to rethink their computing priorities and adopt, buy and deploy x86 whenever and wherever possible.
Whether you love or hate the concept, good-enough computing has been a constant theme in data center strategizing and purchasing ever since then. Detractors of x86 servers actively used the term as a pejorative. Yet quarter over quarter, year over year the numbers of systems based on Intel Xeon and AMD Opteron microprocessors sold have exceeded traditional enterprise class systems by far. Today, x86 dominates data center markets and applications, including general purpose computing, high performance and supercomputing, cloud computing, big data analytics and in-memory applications.
More importantly, x86-based solutions are largely priced far less than alternative system solutions. At the Xeon E7 v2 launch event in San Francisco, Diane Bryant, Intel’s SVP and GM of Intel’s Data Center Group said that while RISC-based servers (IBM’s Power Systems and Oracle’s SPARC solutions) constitute just 6% of the total number of 4-way and above systems sold last year, those sales accounted for some 52% of the total revenues spent.
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NOTE: This column was originally published in the Pund-IT Review.