Blog Post

Why Intel put $24M behind cloud, big data

Intel (s intl) Capital announced $24 million in new investments yesterday, and cloud computing and big data companies were the big beneficiaries. These aren’t the first such investments Intel has made in the space, but they do underscore Intel’s understanding that it has to prop up software partners to keep Intel dominant as computing evolves.

Last week, Stacey Higginbotham wrote about a supercomputing-industry microcosm of the situation that Intel and other chipmakers are facing. The long and short situation, she explained, is that multicore processors are still relatively new, but always evolving, and more and more of them are being packed into supercomputers. Some experts suggest we’ll never reach the exascale plateau if software innovation doesn’t catch up with the intricacies involved in running jobs across so very many cores.

But the problems don’t stop at the world’s fastest systems. As companies try to transition their legacy data centers into cloud computing environments, or start rolling out distributed systems to run big data workloads, they run into their own problems. It’s not always easy to write applications designed to run on such systems, and maximizing the efficiency of today’s powerful processors is also difficult. Having a data center or cluster full of multicore processors isn’t too helpful if applications aren’t taking advantage of them, or if they’re too underutilized to justify the expense of buying or running them.

If the data center is the new box, as Joyent’s Jason Hoffman puts it, companies are going to have to figure out how to run whole data centers without getting bogged down at the processor level. In 2009, Intel invested $8.5 million in Joyent, which has since complemented its public cloud business with a software business selling the company’s SmartDataCenter private-cloud product

This time around, Intel reportedly invested $5 million in private-cloud software startup DynamicOps. That company, which spawned from investment bank Credit Suisse, (s cs) sells software that helps companies automate their data centers and design cloud services. Intel also invested in predictive analytics startup Revolution Analytics, which sells a commercial version of the popular, and open source, R statistical analysis software. Intel claims that “Revolution Analytics is aligned with Intel’s visual and parallel computing and open source strategies.”

For more on Revolution Analytics, check out this interview with its founder, Norman Nie:

The remaining recipients of Intel’s $24 million investment also fall under the cloud and big data umbrellas to some degree, as well under the increasingly important mobile umbrella. Intel stands to benefit not only from helping companies build cloud infrastructure and applications, but also by helping companies deliver those apps to users’ devices. They include e-commerce Platform-as-a-Service provider IP Commerce; telco analytics specialist Guavus; cloud-based gaming service Gaikai; cloud-based social-gaming personalization startup Swrve New Media; and commercial energy-management provider enLighted.

Swrve’s service is actually an interesting combination of cloud, big data and mobile. Here’s how it describes itself.


Image courtesy of Flickr user zzzack.