Intel intros network appliances

Setting its sights squarely on an emerging category of products for the data centre, Intel last month unveiled a line of branded devices aimed at accelerating e-business traffic as it flows between the router and the server farm.

The Intel NetStructure line will include Web caching appliances, load balancing and traffic management equipment, and security authentication accelerators, as well as high-speed switching devices.

As Intel looks beyond desktops and servers to continue its phenomenal growth — 30 per cent through most of the ’90s-the company’s stated strategy is to expand its market well beyond chip making.

One analyst believes that the Intel name will make the chip maker a force to be reckoned with in these expanded markets. But as it competes with the likes of Cisco in switches or NetAppliance’s Web caching technology, Intel is unlikely to gain an 80 per cent market share as it has on the desktop.

“It will take time to establish the Intel brand name in those new segments. The name is familiar to IT people, and that is a big head start,” said Linley Gwenap, principal analyst at the Linley Group in Mountain View, Calif.

As an initial step in that direction, Intel announced the first seven products out of its Communications Products Group (CPG), formed four months ago.

“Our strategy for CPG is to focus on e-business and building block products for the edge, where the Internet meets the public switched telephone network,” said John Miner, vice-president of CPG.

At the Intel Developer Forum in Palm Springs, Fla. in February, Miner spoke of the need for products that accelerate e-business traffic. He cited a Gartner Group study that said if customers can’t access a site in eight seconds they abandon it and go elsewhere.

The branded products fit under the umbrella of a much larger and ambitious strategy called (IXA), Internet Exchange Architecture.

IXA is Intel’s attempt to duplicate the success the chip giant had when it created the Intel x86 platform for desktops, according to Mark Christensen, Intel vice-president and general manager of the Network Communications Group.

Intel wants to create a similar industry standard around its StrongArm processors, hoping developers will use StrongArm to design Internet infrastructure and communications devices.

Designing around a single architecture offers developers a number of benefits.

“This gives developers the scalability as you move through the various (chip) versions without having to report everything. You can easily put together a system and use your legacy apps for quick time to market,” said David Kalaidjian, marketing manager at Applied Microsystems, in Irvine, Calif.

Intel, in Santa Clara, Calif., can be reached at 1-800-538-3373 or