Meltdown And Spectre Chip Flaws Have Cloud Companies Looking For Intel Alternatives


There is a lot of buzz surrounding Meltdown and Spectre, two recently disclosed chip vulnerabilities that have hardware and software makers scrambling to release patches to deal with the situation. What is not fully known yet is what performance impact these patches will have. Regardless of how all it shakes out, some of Intel's data center customers that run cloud networks are looking to jump ship.

The chip flaws, if you want to call them that (and many do, though Intel claims its processors are working as intended) collectively affect all modern CPUs to some extent. However, Intel's silicon seems to be the most affected, as the way they are designed leaves them susceptible to both types of exploits, whereas AMD contends that its processors are immune to Meltdown. So, companies that currently use Intel chips have started looking at alternatives.

"If ARM provides enough computing power at lower cost or lower power than x86, it would be a strong incentive for us to switch," Backblaze founder and CEO Gleb Budman told Fortune. "If the fix for x86 results in a dramatically decreased level of performance, that might increasingly push in favor of switching to ARM."

Backblaze is a well-known cloud backup and storage provider. The company routinely releases hard drive reliability reports based on its actual usage of tens of thousands of HDDs. In total, Backblaze has stored 400 million gigabytes of data and recovered more than 25 billion files to date. Point being, this is not a small outfit. It's also not the only one that might defect from team Intel.

"If Intel doesn’t step up and do something to make this right then we’re going to have to punish them in the marketplace by not purchasing their products," added Adam Stern, chief executive of Infinitely Virtual, a cloud-based vendor that currently only uses Intel processors.

Depending on how Intel handles the situation, the impact could be felt down the line rather than right away. Most cloud providers feel it is too big of a project to replace their current infrastructure that's built around Intel, but would look at AMD and ARM when expanding. NVIDIA could also be an option in some instances.