Study highlights bias in desktop IT procurement in Brazil

Study highlights bias in desktop IT procurement in Brazil

Summary: Most government tenders mention preference to Intel processors

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TOPICS: Processors, PCs
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The vast majority of IT tenders in the Brazilian public sector for desktop computers mention a clear preference to Intel processors, according to a study that analyzed hundreds of bid documents.

According to a consulting firm IT Data provided to website Convergência Digital, only 11 out of 930 tenders analyzed did not make any mention to specific brands and models of computers that would be the preferred option, as well as type of the architecture, CPU cache memory and other processor-related features.

The document also mentions there are direct mentions to Intel in about 40 percent of tenders. This compares to a 0.8 percent of mentions to AMD in the bid documents.

"The analysis highlighted worrying aspects [of procurement] that can effectively result in wasted public resources, as well as a negative impact on the national IT industry and strategic risks to the country. A high percentage of the tender documents makes direct mentions to brands, models and/or incorrect or incoherent use of technical aspects," the document says.

It is understood that the difference in pricing between Intel and AMD products is about 30 percent, according to the document.

The news of a possible bias towards Intel-based desktops emerges as the government announced that it will launch a multi-departmental tender for 75,000 computers in the next few weeks.

Topics: Processors, PCs

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  • I see no problem with this.

    Ask a whole slew of IT professionals who have handled tons of computers, and the majority of them will say they've had fewer problems with computers with Intel processors than those with AMD processors.

    Up front cost isn't everything. Cost in man-hours of IT support and long-term cost in equipment replacement is a huge part. Electricity costs are a big thing -- actually a bigger thing than up-front costs for a data center. Intel wins on those things. Up front cost is only everything for gamers et al who like to replace their machines every 2 years.
    Jacob VanWagoner
    • I strongly disagree with Jacob, for many reasons

      I am a Brazilian SOHO professional (a translator) and have used both Intel- and AMD-based desktops over the years. First of all, the processor isn't a critical component in terms of maintenance - it's a static silicon slab with no moving parts, so it doesn't have any wear and tear. It can be damaged by static electricity when being transported or installed, or by a power surge when in use, but in the former case, problems will be detected immediately on initial use, and the latter can be avoided by careful selection of a good power supply unit with active PFC (I use a great Seasonic-designed one myself, but I doubt that such tenders go into much detail in the PSU's specs, and doubt even more that bids offer, as this would raise the final price), in addition to the usual electric protection and installation precautions (which in Brazil often and oddly include a piece of equipment unique to the country called a "stabilizer" that almost everybody uses, but electric engineers will tell you it does the exact opposite of its purported action and is actually hazardous to the equipment).

      Power consumption? Again, the PSU is much more critical, with the nondescript cheap Chinese units that are installed in 99% of Brazilian desktops dissipating a huge amount of heat (while also frying the components with unstable voltages and currents). If they were interested in saving power, they would specify PSUs with 80 Plus or similar certification. But as for processors, Intel and AMD rate their TDPs using different criteria, with AMD's values tending to be higher, because AMD prefers to use worst-case scenarios. A Phenom II X6 1090T, for example, has a TDP of 125W, but in actual use it rarely goes over 40 or 50W (especially with AMD's Cool'n'Quiet and TurboCore technologies throttling down the speed and the power consumption in idle moments).

      Processing power? Intel has been in the lead in the higher end of its processor lines for many years, beating AMD to a pulp in all benchmarks in that respect. That is important if the tender is for graphics workstations, for example. But I would bet that 99% of those tenders are for common desktops for office work, using MS Word and e-mail. Then AMD shines, because in the lower range, it's AMD that beats Intel to a pulp money-wise. You can't compare the performance of a cheap but surprisingly fast dual-core AMD Athlon II to the Intel Celeron you'd get for the same price - it's not by chance that Celerons are jokingly known in the trade as "Retardons"...

      Even in the high end, seriously, my hexa-core Phenom II X6 1090T is blazingly fast - much more than I need, and I do some heavy stuff like video transcoding or running multiple virtual machines, something that most future users of the equipment from those tenders will never do. I'm yet to see it be slow at anything. It can be easily overclocked, but I don't need it. And it's much cheaper than a comparable (in terms of performance) Intel Core i5 or i7.

      AMD also compensates the high-end processor lag by shining in chipset design, where it is much faster than Intel to incorporate technological advances. Mainboards for AMD are usually much more advanced than Intel's current ones at any time. They already offered native support to things like SATA 6.0 Gb/s and USB 3.0 when hardly any Intel mainboard even mentioned them, and when they did, it was astronomically expensive gamer models, while on AMD, it was already mainstream even for cheap mainboards.

      All these factors would already be enough to explain why all my builds in the last 8 years have been AMD-based, but what really tipped over the balance was scalability. AMD has only two sockets, and they are usually extendable (for example, AM3+ runs AM3 processors, and legacy AM3 mainboards often support some AM3+ processors with a BIOS update as well). You can run an entry-level, single-core Sempron on the same socket and mainboard as an eight-core FX-8350 beast. That means you can have a modest configuration at first and easily expand it as you need more power - which I have done myself. I gave up on Intel when I found out that it had three or four different sockets (often with different RAM requirements as well), and that if I started with a modest processor and wanted an upgrade, I'd have to replace everything along with the processor.

      So, the study that Angélica reported about is very important. Don't get me wrong, the fact that I'm a happy AMD user who thinks he has made the best choice for his needs doesn't mean that I'm a fanboi. I have used Intel processors before and will use them again if that's the best choice at the moment. And there are, no doubt, many cases where Intel processors will be the best choice. But this bias is not only in disagreement with best practices and even the purpose of tenders, but it's also making taxpayers' money be ill spent in many cases.
      goyta
      • I agree with Jacob

        I'm sorry, goyta, but you say it all when you say you're a SOHO user. There is a very big difference in a person picking out a processor for his/her 1-5 computer environment and an IT engineer making a processor selection for workforce of 10,000 users.

        There are times when AMD could work as well in a specific scenario, but I'll echo what Jacob said - those who do it for a living pick Intel for a reason...even if you can't discern the reason why just by looking at a spec sheet for the most recent family of processors.
        Bob.Loblaw