The program, announced at the PC Expo show here today, will focus on helping Intel customers such as Dell Computer or Compaq Computer tune their Intel-based servers so they can win a place against competing server designs, said Will Swope, general manager of the newly formed Intel solutions enabling group that's in charge of the program.
Though Intel will charge those partners $50,000 apiece for the privilege of receiving Intel's expertise, Swope says the program's purpose isn't to garner Intel more revenue, but rather to further the adoption of Intel hardware in the long run. The fee merely covers the costs of the program, he said, which will involve thousands of Intel employees.
The program is part of Intel's increasingly aggressive push to steal away market share from higher-powered servers, typically running variants of Unix atop RISC chips Intel hopes to supplant. Intel's years-long strategy is to extend its dominance on desktop computers into ever more expensive, complex, powerful and profitable machines.
The strategy marks a more active engagement between Intel and the computer makers that buy its chips. Intel hopes essentially to tow its customers into new markets, helping them by designing Intel hardware that can get the job done. The program is beginning with servers, but will expand to other Intel products later, Intel said.
Intel is in a sense taking a page from the Unix-RISC marketing manual, where tight integration between chipmaker and computer manufacturer often is inevitable. In the case of IBM, Compaq, Hewlett-Packard, SGI and especially Sun Microsystems, a single company designs the chip, the computer and the fundamental software known as the operating system.
Intel's Itanium chip, due later this year and the first 64-bit CPU in Intel's "IA-64" family, is the spearhead of Intel's push to dethrone the more powerful Unix-RISC servers. Intel also has high hopes for future computers with eight more Intel CPUs.
"As we roll out IA-64 and new and improved eight-way servers, we know we have applications that will work stunningly better," Swope said.
In addition, Intel today announced an expansion of its existing program to let customers visit centers where they can translate their software to Intel hardware. The centers also help value-added resellers (VARs)--companies that typically sell hardware with their own specialized software to a particular market, Swope said. VARs often have a difficult time, for example, testing their software designed for a network with 50 PCs to work on a network with 200, he said.
"We're making sure that applications can be tuned and delivered on Intel servers," Swope said.