Intel plots a Web 2.0 play with Facebook

Intel plots a Web 2.0 market play in alliance with Facebook

Intel will supply chips and programming tools to power Facebook servers, which Intel hopes will bring it a larger presence in the burgeoning Web 2.0 market.

Facebook is expected to buy thousands of servers from top vendors that will include Xeon 5400 chips, Intel says. A number of chipset and processor configurations will be supplied depending on Facebook's needs.

Intel is also providing software tools like compilers, debuggers, thread checkers and analysis tools, says Nick Knupffer, an Intel spokesman. The company is sending a “crack team” of coding experts who will use the software tools to help Facebook programmers rearchitect applications in an effort to speed up performance.

"As with any program, there are tricks you can do to make [programs] run better," Knupffer says.

One of the tools supplied by Intel will be Vtune, which uses a graphical user interface to tune performance by pointing out holes in programs.

"The goal is to deliver improvements in performance and enable the thousands of Facebook servers to deliver the greatest overall value and price performance," Knupffer says.

Facebook did not comment on the number of servers it has ordered.

Intel will now be powering the entire computing infrastructure for Facebook, which has 90 million users and is growing. The chip vendor also hopes that the partnership will give it more opportunities to run systems and design software optimised for Web 2.0 infrastructures.

The partnership allows Intel to target a customer base in the growing Web 2.0 market, says Dean McCarron, principal analyst with Mercury Research. The demand for hardware in the Web 2.0 market to handle data-intensive applications will only increase, and Facebook could be a springboard for Intel to establish a larger presence in the space.

"When you look at what Intel does with processors, most deals and investments ... are with an eye to grow the market," McCarron says.

The Web 2.0 industry is a tremendous growth area, and just like the search industry, Intel has seen its potential and impact, McCarron says. Many search engines now rely on Intel, with Google being one of the heavy investors in Intel components to run its data-crunching servers, McCarron says.

"One of the things that has happened in the server business with the advent of a 'bigger' Internet, mega-datacentres have turned into a growth market for higher-end server components," McCarron says.

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