The future is datacentric, according to Intel

4 mins read

According to Intel’s Reynette Au the future for programmable logic is a bright one and has a central role in the company’s strategy to become a datacentric business.

As vice president of marketing in the Programmable Solutions Group at Intel, Reynette Au is among a handful of women to have held a number of senior roles in the electronics industry over the past 30 years.

At Intel she is leading the company’s marketing efforts as it looks to broaden its portfolio of programmable logic solutions, spanning silicon, software, intellectual property and hardware platforms.

Au is responsible for defining strategy, developing corporate business and marketing plans and in creating new business opportunities for Intel.

“It’s an interesting time to be at the company,” Au suggests. “Over the past seven years Intel has pivoted to become a datacentric business and that progression continues today. It’s fair to say that last year we substantially moved the needle towards data centricity and Intel’s presence in that market.”

That does not to imply that Intel no longer believes in the viability of the PC market, but rather that, “We recognise that the world is being run on data.”

Au believes that the acquisition of Altera, which forms Intel’s Programme Solutions Group, strengthens that pivot.

“As Intel PSG looks to meet the demands of a rapidly changing market, PSG sits at the very centre as we look to address changing customer experiences and the rise of pervasive connectivity,” Au explains.

“Silicon is the foundational technology upon which Intel was built and it’s crucial that we understand the importance that is now being attached to FPGA technology in this space. We, as a business, are constantly having to look at ways to expand and reach new markets.”

According to Au it’s that adoption of programmable logic and the scaling of FPGA technology that will play a key role in the business as it goes forward.

“FPGAs are notoriously difficult to work with. Although they have incredible power to deliver new user experiences it’s a challenge to extract the benefits. We need to make the adoption of FPGA technology easier and we need to lower the barriers and enable much broader access to it,” says Au.

The way industries are adopting technology is changing dramatically and Au points to the financial sector as a prime example.

“Look into the IT department of any major bank, they now employ hundreds of software developers working on software that is intended to help differentiate itself from its rivals and data use has become a significant business advantage.

“Ninety per cent of the data we use today didn’t exist two years ago; that exponential growth, that generation of growth is frightening. For many companies the challenge is how to use this data. What do they do with it?”

Data, which is described as the ‘new oil’ in terms of its value, requires companies like Intel to solve the technology issues that will help customers better address business’ problems Au argues.

“Our products need to be appealing to the software developer, because they are the ones cranking out the added value. It’s at that level that you can solve business problems with technology. How do we deploy technology to answer those questions and meet our customers’ needs to boost compute optimisation?”

The conversations Intel is now having are changing, concedes Au, “As are the customers we have to deal with. There needs to be a business use for the technology we are developing. Intel’s and my view is that the closer we are able to bring technology to the end user the more value it will have.”

Turning to the Internet of Things Intel is adapting to a fast-changing market in which the development environment is very different to that which went before.

“Developers for the IoT are focused on efficiency and speed,” says Au,”so, how does a hardware company, which is what we are at the end of the day, figure out how to address that and make our capabilities appealing.”

The key question for companies is how do you get software engineers to embrace FPGA technology?

“At Intel we are working to create programming models that are common and general purpose. When you look at the programming languages engineers are trained in, you need to align with that so they don’t have to re-learn or re-train to solve problems.”

According to Au, Intel wants to enable engineers to adopt its technologies by aligning programming models with tools and references with which they are familiar.

“This allows for much greater flexibility and provides a route by which engineers can truly exploit the inherent flexibility and benefits of programmable logic,” she explains.

Au points to the importance of ecosystems and partnership programmes.

“We need to have partners who are subject matter experts and able to support developers who have identified a market segment in which to work. These companies have spent their business cycles refining and honing their expertise. You can’t develop everything independently.”

Intel is heavily engaged with Microsoft and with what are described as the super seven cloud providers, who are, according to Au, “Each looking to exploit FPGA technology in different ways. But I do think that when it comes to the deployment or concept of acceleration via a cloud model we are just scratching the surface.” She continues, “It’s not a mature market but Intel wants to take a thought leadership position in it. We want to be able to tap into a technology where we have already a strong presence.”

When it comes to the cloud the overall idea has to be that it will make the delivery of services more efficient.

“Valuable cloud services will continue to evolve,” Au says. “Beyond the existing players there is a second wave of cloud providers getting ready to participate as part of that drive towards a more datacentric world, many industries in the future will benefit from cloud services.”

According to Au there remains considerable ‘runway’ left when it comes to FPGAs.

“While the technology isn’t new, its versatility can certainly be extended further. FPGA technology has been very self-limiting, due to its complexity, but there is so much value and power that can still be had and exploited. And while I don’t see anything ‘revolutionary’ in terms of the core IP I do believe we will see a steady evolution and expansion into new and varied areas.”

Reynette Au is vice president of marketing in Intel’s Programmable Solutions Group, leading the marketing of its programmable logic solutions, spanning silicon, software, IP and hardware platforms.

Prior to joining Intel in 2017, Au held a number of senior positions in the electronics industry, including: vp of marketing for the mobile business unit at Micron Technology; president and CEO at Triscend; vp of worldwide marketing at ARM; vp of navigation products within the mobile business unit at NVIDIA, and chief marketing officer at Phoenix Technologies.