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Intel Brings Its Brand to Cloud Computing

Once know for powering PCs, the chip giant wants companies buying cloud services to know whose chips are in the hardware.

If there’s one thing chip maker Intel knows, it’s branding. During the last two decades you’d be hard pressed to find an ad for a personal computer in any medium that didn’t include a reference to having “Intel Inside.”

Now the chip giant is rolling that expertise into the realm of cloud computing. Intel said today it is launching a branding program under which cloud computing service providers will clearly label which of their services are running on hardware with Intel-made chips or other technology inside them.

One thing Intel has going for it already is a huge share of the data center market. If you’re using pretty much any kind of cloud computing service now, there’s a good chance — north of 90 percent — that the underlying hardware has an Intel chip inside it. But until now, most cloud service providers would make little effort to make that clear to their customers.

Intel said it is working with 16 providers around the world to add the brand “Powered by Intel Cloud Technology” to the websites and other marketing info these providers produce. And it doesn’t just refer to Intel processors in the servers. It also applies to Intel-made solid-state storage or networking capabilities.

Amazon Web Services was the first to start labeling its various cloud services as Intel-powered. The two companies announced a plan last September under which AWS started touting its cloud services with the old “Intel Inside” brand.

Among the cloud companies that will be using the Intel branding are Rackspace, Savvis and Virtustream in the U.S., ATOS in the U.K. and several others in France, Mexico, Russia and Brazil.

Intel’s Jason Waxman, VP and general manager in its data center group, told me it’s all about helping companies that are evaluating cloud services and providers make a more informed decision. “There’s hasn’t been much transparency before this,” he told me earlier this week.

You can also view it as a move made in anticipation of a more competitive environment. While they don’t represent much of a threat to Intel yet, power-efficient chips based on the ARM architecture are coming to servers from a variety of vendors as soon as the second half of this year. This branding exercise gives Intel some clear running room to mark out its territory between now and then.

There’s also the chance for Intel to market its Atom chip, which is a low-power answer to ARM-based chips and which has also been adapted for servers. They’re not as beefy as its traditional servers chips sold under the Xeon brand, but, says analyst Patrick Moorhead of Moor Insights and Strategy, having more than one option out there gives Intel a chance to hook customers with one and then sell them on the more powerful option later.

“Intel’s new program is genius and helps solve two key challenges. First, it helps with the upsell from Atom versus Xeon,” Moorhead said. “Second, it provides perceptual separation between Intel’s competitors like AMD, ARM, Broadcom, and Cavium. Customers typically feel more comfortable with branded solutions versus unbranded, and that could turn into a challenge for those companies that are or will soon be competing against Intel. They’ll have to respond. The one that knows how to do that is AMD because it has experience in this kind of co-marketing. The others don’t.”

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