Intel to change IT systems inspired by Napster

By : |October 30, 2001 0



Lucas van Grinsven

LONDON: US chip maker Intel said on Tuesday it has been inspired by
song-swapping Internet service Napster and free operating system Linux to
overhaul some of its technology infrastructure.

Despite Napster’s short-lived success — it has been idle since July after
stumbling over legal and technical issues — the technology behind it helped
Intel to limit expensive network bills, Intel’s vice president for Information
Technology, Doug Busch, told journalists here.

The world’s largest semiconductor company often needs to send large
multimedia computer files to its employees across the globe, containing
information such as manuals or video messages.

But Intel simply cannot afford to send all these files from its Californian
headquarters over the worldwide Internet, running up a huge telecom bills, Busch
said.

Shortly after Napster began breaking through, some 18 months ago now, Intel
began to develop its own software that, like Napster, would allow employees to
download certain files from each other’s computers.

"Absolutely," Busch said, when asked whether he was inspired by
Napster. "I couldn’t afford to send big files over the wide area network
(WAN). It didn’t fit into my budget. Now employees just look for the file on a
PC closest to theirs, which can be in the same office. It’s cheaper. It’s
faster," he said.

Intel’s peer-to-peer network improved performance and reduced costs by around
10 times, he said, adding storage costs on PCs were also 10 times cheaper than
on big central servers.

Alternatives designed to reduce network bills, such as caching servers which
store popular files on computers around the world, were not attractive for Intel
which has many small offices. Intel would need contracts with different caching
companies, offering little added value, Busch added.

More inspiration from the Internet
The free operating system Linux was another unexpected result from ad hoc
Internet collaboration that has been embraced by Intel, saving the chip maker
$200 million, Busch said.

The company ditched expensive Unix servers with proprietary Unix software and
replaced them by cheaper servers equipped with Intel’s own chips that run Linux
software.

Linux was developed by the Finn Linus Torvalds, but improved by volunteer
programmers on the web. Everyone is free to use the program, study the source
code and suggest improvements.

Busch said it was easy to migrate to Linux because of its similarities with
Unix — Linux is a flavor of Unix. The Linux servers are used in the engineering
and scientific departments of Intel. The company’s business lines which rely on
accounting software and other office software still use Microsoft’s Windows 2000
as the operating system of choice.

There are not enough robust office software packages that run under Linux, he
said. In any case, using Linux is not much cheaper than Windows 2000. Although
Linux as an operating system is free, the real costs are related to the
computers, and support and maintenance, he said.

For future trends, Busch said the company was developing a method to
prioritise video over email on its data networks. This should make video
conferencing should more attractive.

Other areas in which Intel invests are wireless LAN networks. It also
encourages employees to work from portable laptop computers rather than
desktops, because it makes staff more productive at an extra cost of around $200
a year.

(C) Reuters Limited.

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