The difference with ARM and Power is that any outside manufacturers can license the designs and modify them as need be. That’s not the case with Intel’s x86 architecture. The onus is on Intel to innovate. ARM has always licensed out its architecture, and now IBM has formed a group called OpenPower, where memory makers, graphics chip companies, and other component vendors can come together and help build the kind of systems that the Googles of the world are already clamoring for. “If you look at x86, x86 is not creating this open ecosystem environment to let everybody come in and innovate on their platform,” says Brad McCready, an IBM Fellow.
But he agrees that there’s one thing that can boosts innovation in the server space: competition. Two years ago, Intel didn’t have much of that. But with OpenPower and ARM pushing into the game, everything is changing. “When there’s a lot of competition. There’s a lot more product innovation,” McCarron says.