The emergence of computing clouds was always going to lead to new approaches to server design. We've already seen custom chips for owners of mega datacentres and the rise of 'disposable' servers that can be procured (and removed) in seconds, and now Intel is openly saying that a major new processor is aimed squarely at cloud environments.
Intel's latest part, best known by the Nehalem codename, is targeted at these new power plants or bit factories, with the chip giant saying that such facilities could represent up to a quarter of its sales by 2012. They already account for 10 per cent of sales now, it adds. If anybody seriously doubts that we are in the midst of a huge change in the way we consume compute resources, these phenomenal numbers should act as a wake-up call.
That said, these are still recognisable as the servers that sit in your own datacentre; it's just that they have been optimised for optimal power efficiency because the new datacentre owners like Google, Yahoo and Microsoft will be paying some of the biggest utility bills in the world.
One side note: Intel was well ahead of the game in cloud computing. As far back as the late 1990s it tried to become a datacentre service provider itself. That move was a rare failure for the Silicon Valley icon, however, and the company is insistent that it has no plans to try again.