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Hardware makers unite to challenge Intel with Gen-Z spec

Agam Shah | Oct. 12, 2016
The Gen-Z architecture will pave the way for a new class of hybrid memory and storage to be installed in computers

But Gen-Z faces challenges. Intel accounts for more than 90 percent of server chip shipments today, and could block the adoption of Gen-Z. Consortium members like ARM and IBM are trying to break that dominance, but have failed. If the specification does gain adoption, however, it could play a role in breaking Intel's server dominance.

Gen-Z said all hardware makers are welcome, and it wouldn't cost Intel anything to join. Intel declined to answer questions on why it wasn't joining Gen-Z.

"We have offered high-performance coherent interconnects and industry standard memory, I/O, and accelerator interfaces on our CPUs for decades. This provides our customers with the best combination of choice, performance, and total cost of ownership," an Intel spokesman said in an email.

The industry-standard technologies Intel is referring to are now aging and being replaced by faster I/O, memory and storage technologies. But considering that Intel dominates servers, it is also driving technology adoption. Intel is also releasing new storage, memory and I/O technologies for servers, which are all proprietary.

Gen-Z is an open specification, and will be compatible with 3D Xpoint, which will form the basis for Intel's upcoming Optane storage and memory products. But Intel is trying to protect its own OmniPath technology, a proprietary architecture and interconnect, which Gen-Z will compete against. Intel is also pushing silicon photonics in order to wire up servers in data centers.

Aside from Intel, all major server, storage and memory makers are banding together to make Gen-Z work. A lack of cooperation between Intel and server makers like Dell and HPE on Gen-Z could create a stalemate of technology adoption in servers and the computing industry at large.

 

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