Intel Gets Inside Big Data Chips With Hadoop


What with everyone else jumping on the Hadoop bandwagon at Strata this week, Intel clearly doesn’t want to be left out. But instead of simply joining the club, the chip maker seems to have stolen the show altogether, announcing its own Apache Hadoop distribution this morning at an invitation only event.

Intel said that it plans to offer its very own flavor of Hadoop, the hugely popular open-source Big Data software that allows applications to be run on large clusters of servers.

“We’re in an era of generating huge amounts of data, but the key point is not what we get out of it” explained Boyd Davis, VP of Intel’s Architecture Group.

Rather, Boyd stressed that what really matters is big answers, adding that through them Big Data has almost limitless potential to transform our societies, from managing energy supplies to personalized healthcare services.

For Intel then, its Hadoop distribution has the same purpose as those offered by the likes of HP, Cloudera and Greenplum – to enable businesses to make better decisions and identify possible security threats quickly.

But Big Data is rapidly becoming a very competitive space, and questions will be asked if we really need another open-source Hadoop distribution platform? With similar announcements from Cloudera, Hortonworks, which has just put out a Windows version of HDP, and EMC’s Greenplum this week, the Hadoop space is quickly becoming a very crowded one with a dozen or so top companies offering what are pretty similar platforms.

Intel’s Hadoop Play Is All About Chips


Intel’s real game plan isn’t about selling Big Data services at all. For Intel, Big Data and Hadoop are just a means to an end as it looks to expand its core business of selling microchips, and it’s doing so in quite a novel way by integrating Hadoop directly into the silicon level, offering a cost-effective framework that can connect and manage devices throughout the entire enterprise in a scalable fashion.

The thinking behind this move is that open-source software like Hadoop has historically always helped to drive the success of profit-making companies that make the commercial products and provide the technical support that enterprise needs to run it. As Wikibon analyst Stu Miniman recently pointed out, in the case of Hadoop, the Big Data framework has probably done more than anything else to break the traditional vendor’s stranglehold on the data center.

“If you look at the price per gigabyte, and the massive amount of features built into traditional IT infrastructure – the people that want to build Hadoop clusters and other big data architectures want to break that,” said Miniman on NewsDesk last week.

We’ve seen the impact of Hadoop most recently with the tremendous successes of Red Hat and the Linux operating system, and Intel no doubt thinks that it can do something similar. The chip maker openly admits that it doesn’t expect to make much money from Hadoop, but knows full well that it stands to gain a huge deal more by selling its chips to companies that scramble to buy up the servers and hardware needed to manage their Big Data, and Hadoop will only accelerate that demand.

According to Renee James, Exec. VP of Intel’s Software Operations, one of Intel’s biggest concerns is that Hadoop isn’t growing as fast as it should. To try and remedy this, Intel has modified its own variety of Hadoop to take advantage of the latest features available in its new chips, bringing new capabilities that other platforms don’t yet. For example, Intel Distribution will feature Pentaho’s complete range of analytics software, bringing new data mining, analysis, interactive reporting and other capabilities to the distro.

This could be interpreted as an attempt by Intel to muscle in on startups like Hortonworks and Cloudera, but Davis says that this is far from the case. Instead, the company is planning to share these advancements with the Hadoop community at large, having already announced a team up with Red Hat, and so eventually everyone should be able to benefit – providing yet more evidence that Intel is getting into this game solely to find new customers for its chips.