Speaking at a dinner with reporters in downtown San Francisco, Diane Bryant, Intel's vice president and general manager of the datacenter and connected systems group, confirmed that the chip giant makes customized processors for its large clients like Google and Facebook.
Bryant stressed how much the server market has changed since 2008. Back then, three server giants (HP, Dell and IBM) account for 75 percent of Intel's server chip sales, but now this 75 percent is spread across eight server makers, and one of them is Google, a company that only makes servers for itself.
Bryant didn’t say much more, but those few words shine a light on another part of the big-time chip business that’s rarely discussed. There are cases where a large chipmaker such as Intel and AMD will provide certain customers with chips that others may not have access to. Sometimes, this merely means that when the chipmaker cranks out a big batch of processors, one customer gets the chips that happen to have the best speed or power ratings. But in other cases, the chipmaker will actually modify processors at the request of a particular customer.
This practice may show how determined the Dells and the HPs are to offer machines that stand out in what has become a commodity market. But it may also show how far Google and other web giants will go as they work to customize the servers that underpin their online services, pushing to reduce power and cost in the data center.