Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

Intel’s Romley Chip Is Good News for Storage Players EMC and NetApp

Remember how, last week, after a survey of 100 CIOs, the investment bank J.P. Morgan concluded that while IT spending is trending up, Intel’s new Xeon server chip known best by its code name Romley isn’t likely to be much of a catalyst for that spending? Remember also how on the very day that I wrote about that survey, I dined with Diane Bryant, head of Intel’s data center business unit, and asked for her reaction to that finding?

Well, today we heard from another bank, and its opinions about Intel’s Romley chip and what it means for data center spending couldn’t be more different. Chris Whitmore, an analyst with Deutsche Bank Market Research, published a note to clients today, arguing that Romley will indeed spur a new round of spending in corporate data centers, and that it will have an equally strong secondary effect on the fortunes of enterprise storage companies, specifically EMC and NetApp.

One of the things that Romley will encourage, Whitmore writes, is a growth in the density of virtual machines running in each server. (Remember that, more often than not, a physical server is virtualized or subdivided into many virtual servers, allowing each machine to act like several machines.) More virtual machines allows you to consolidate your physical machines and add more in the same footprint if you want, which in turn means more computing work getting done overall. Whitmore estimates that, in general, data centers will boost their workloads by 20 to 25 percent by the end of next year.

Roughly 26 percent of Romley chip purchases will be used in these virtualized environments, Whitmore estimates. And that tends to spur demand for storage to support the virtual machines. In fact, the growth of terabytes worth of storage products shipped mirrors closely the unit growth of servers. (See the graphic, below, which I screen-grabbed from the report; click to see it bigger.) In short, it’s good news for NetApp and EMC. Whitmore says both are taking share from other vendors, including IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Dell, with sales growing at north of 20 percent a year — a growth rate that’s higher than that of the overall market, which grew 14 percent last year. He rates shares of both EMC and NetApp a “buy,” with price targets of $35 and $60, respectively.

Great news for EMC and NetApp, but what does it mean for Intel? Whitmore says to expect a mixed bag. Companies wanting to boost their use of virtual machines will be buyers. Companies that aren’t into virtualization so much, maybe not. “We believe our estimate of x86 servers shipped into virtual environments growing from 21 percent in 2011 to 26 percent in 2013 could prove conservative,” Whitmore writes. “As a result, although we expect Romley to have a relatively muted impact on overall server unit demand, we do expect it to drive another leg of virtual machine growth.”

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