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Intel betting on semi-custom designs for 2015

Intel's semi-custom CPU business is growing
Intel's semi-custom CPU business is growing

Intel's head honcho for anything data-centre related has confirmed that the company is betting big on semi-custom designs for next year. Diane Bryant told the New York Times that she expects half of the chips it sells to public clouds to use custom designs. That amounts to about nine million units annually.

Intel's top clients, those that can order hundreds of thousands of chips, include Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Facebook (but not Apple) as well as Tencent, Alibaba and Baidu. Outside this group are about 200 other public cloud providers including the likes of Ebay, Twitter, Oracle or Lenovo.

"The name of the game is customisation", she said in an interview. Intel chip factories (or fabs as they are known) are now so automated that they allow for models to be tweaked with very little overhead, although the manufacturer is likely to charge a premium. That allows for a much higher average selling price and profit margin.

Perhaps more importantly, it allows Intel to cement its position in the cloud-market against the potential competition coming from ARM partners like AMD, Qualcomm or Applied Micro, all of which have been eyeing a slice of the booming DC market.