Intel Corp. made an aggressive push into the Web hosting arena last week with the debut of its first data center and the announcement of more than a dozen initial customers for its services.
Dubbed Intel Online Services Inc., the chip maker's Web hosting business is being launched here with a center that houses a mix of about 1,000 servers from Dell Computer Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc., with capabilities to expand to 10,000 servers, according to Intel officials.
The center will support Windows NT, Linux and Solaris as well as Microsoft Corp.'s Internet Information Server, Netscape Communications Corp.'s Enterprise Server and the freeware Apache Web server. It will also include a library of e-commerce software, said Mike Aymar, vice president and general manager of IOS.
The center's initial offerings will include co-location and managed co-location services and SLAs (service-level agreements) that cover network uptime and operations at the host facilities. By early next year, Intel plans to move to what it is touting as second-generation hosting, which it says will include offering SLAs that guarantee application performance and uptime.
"You don't see those kinds of SLAs from other providers," said Steve Murray, an analyst with International Data Corp., in Framingham, Mass. "It is everybody's goal, and it will depend on who can deliver on it."
IOS' initial customers think Intel will be the one with the resources and experience to deliver on those lofty promises.
"Intel has set up 35 fabs around the world that run exactly the same. They know how to provide consistency and redundancy," said Jennifer Clark, director of alliances for Webridge Inc., an e-commerce ISV in Portland, Ore.
"We sent out RFPs [requests for proposals] to four firms, including Intel, and we went on-site to audit every firm," said Fred Pohl, operations manager and security officer with HealthMagic Inc., in Columbia, S.C. "Intel had the most impressive security of any facility we visited."
HealthMagic is the developer of what Pohl calls a lifelong health record and is primarily concerned with customer privacy.
Other IOS customers include eHobbies, At Home Corp.'s Excite@Home Shopping Service and ASAP Solutions Inc.'s IndiaWorld.
Friends in speed
Intel also announced a list of e-commerce partners that will install their software at Intel's center and direct customers to its services. Those partners include iXL Inc., PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP and US Interactive Inc.
Another Intel partner is MCI WorldCom Inc.'s UUNet, which is developing what IOS' Aymar calls smart-routing technology, which would enable Intel to offer guarantees covering packet delivery.
"As a packet exits the data center, it will leave on the network it is destined for" instead of hopping from network to network, which can result in packet loss, he said.
Intel is also developing its own change control software and will test and validate all hardware and software upgrades at a second center in Folsom, Calif., in an effort to avoid service outages caused by upgrades.
The Santa Clara, Calif., company plans to open another center in Fairfax, Va., with 8,000 servers in the first quarter of next year as well as two more centers—one in Tokyo, the other in London—in the second quarter. Intel said it will have 12 worldwide data centers, all capable of housing between 5,000 and 10,000 servers, up and running by the end of next year.