Horizontal commoditization

I have relentlessly preached for many years about commoditization of the IT stack, and can at this moment hear the groans of this blog’s audience as they prepare to hear about it again.  But today perhaps, a twist and a study in how the
whole product
must drive commoditization.

AMD recently scored odd coups with IBM apparently using the AMD’s Opteron chip sockets for PowerPC based UNIX boxes
If true, IBM could buy mass manufactured mother boards from a bizzion different
makers, and thus reduce R&D and manufacturing overhead for their RISC based UNIX
line.  This certainly good for IBM, but even better for AMD.

Mother boards are the foundation of any PC or server.  Some firms took a
huge risk in the early days by supporting Opteron as doing so took them away
from the manufacture of Intel Pentium based boards, which was the core of the
server market … especially since nobody in their right corporate mind was
making Itanium boards.  But the gamble paid off, Opteron has traction, and
now that traction is finding other uses … such as IBM UNIX servers.

Market momentum cannot be sustained by a few brave gamblers.  There must
be broad adoption to give a technology staying power.  If IBM and others
(read Sun, Fujitsu, HP) see advantages in leveraging Opteron mother boards for
their UNIX products, then an entire corner of the server market will
validate one technology
.  The side effect of this will be to
increase production of Opteron mother boards, increasing competition and driving
down prices.  This will in turn makes Opteron even more viable in the
market against Intel and their Core Screw-all.  IBM, HP, Sun and others may
well see synergies and cost/support reductions for unified lines of products. 
For example, different IBM server series would be identical internally except
for the use of an Opteron or PowerPC chip.  One box, multiple missions —
what HP did with their UNIX and deceased MPE lines on PA-RISC.

Intel should be very worried about this as AMD is now commoditizing
horizontally, across "architectures".  This changes the rules of the game
yet again, and Intel has yet to recover from the last time AMD rewrote the rule
book.


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