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Intel, ARM target IoT SoC networking

With the Internet of Things market expected to soar, Intel and ARM are preparing to do battle with IoT SoCs aimed at infrastructure gear headed for the edge of the network.

Intel introduced its first Xeon-based system-on-a-chip (SoC), as the company prepares to go head-to-head against...

chip designer ARM in competing to power the networking infrastructure for the Internet of Things (IoT).

Intel released a 4- and an 8-core Xeon processor D for microservers, which are small computers often used as network appliances in data centers. In the second half of the year, Intel plans to release versions of the low-power, 64-bit chips for IoT networking gear and storage appliances. The Xeon D fits between Intel's regular Xeon server processor and the Atom chip used in mobile devices and microservers.

The product release comes nearly two weeks after ARM and its licensees introduced IoT SoCs for software-defined networking (SDN) gear that runs at the edge of a communication or cloud service provider network.

Such gear is expected to be critical as the number of devices connected to the IoT rises. The edge of the network is typically the point where traffic exits and enters the core network.

IoT market expected to soar as data processing shifts

The IoT market, including hardware, software, services and security, will increase from $1.3 trillion in 2013 to $3 trillion in 2020, IDC predicts. By 2018, 40% of IoT-created data will be stored, processed and analyzed close to, or at the edge of, the network.

"The Internet of Things and the vast array of devices coming soon will have major impacts on networks, cloud-based servers, storage and analytics," said J. Gold Associates analyst Jack Gold.

To handle the increasing amount of IoT traffic, networking vendors like Cisco and Hewlett-Packard are advocating placing more intelligence at the networks' edge for processing data, rather than sending all of it back to the data center. The latter would be used for only the most critical data processing tasks.

With all that new networking gear under development, Intel and ARM want in, which should lead to an intense rivalry likely to benefit companies buying the IoT technology.

Better products expected as competition escalates

Besides keeping prices in check, competition should lead to better products through more innovation, said Patrick Moorehead, an analyst for Moore Insights & Strategy.

"Innovative markets are characterized in part by healthy competition," he said. "The networking market has moved from five architectures down to two, ARM and X86 [used by Intel]."

ARM licensees developing SoCs expected to be suitable for future networking gear include Altera, AMD, Applied Micro Circuits, Freescale Semiconductor, Marvell Technology Group and Cavium. ARM processors dominate the smartphone and tablet markets while Intel chips are in the majority of personal computers and commodity servers. Intel has also developed technology for software-designed data center.

Because ARM is just starting to enter the server market, Intel has a "leg up" in the data center, said Moorehead.

More than 50 systems are currently in design using the Xeon D SoC with three quarters related to networking, storage and the IoT, according to Intel. Manufacturers designing microservers based on the chip include Cisco, HP, NEC, Quanta Cloud Technology, Sugon Information Industry and Super Micro Computer.

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