Intel makes 'significant' investment in Hadoop company Cloudera

Intel will market Cloudera's Hadoop distribution over its own

Intel is investing in distributed computing software company Cloudera as it looks to tune more software to its x86 processors.

Intel did not comment on how much it was investing in Cloudera, but in a statement said the amount was "significant."

Cloudera makes software tools for large amounts of data to be processed across multiple computing resources in data centers, a concept called distributed computing. Its offerings are based on Hadoop, open-source software that lets large data sets to be broken down into small pieces and spread across multiple processing units.

"This is Intel's single largest data center technology investment in its history," Intel said in the statement.

Intel makes data center equipment like chips, motherboards and networking switches. But the company has lacked software that complements that equipment, and the Cloudera investment bulks up its data-center product stack.

Intel has been putting more focus on software over the last few years to meet a growing demand for integrated systems that are tuned for specific applications. Intel is also customizing chips to specific applications for larger customers like Facebook, and has been offering programming tools for years.

In a freewheeling chat with users on Reddit last month, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich said Intel's growing focus on software was necessary, as the company needed to understand what chips were going to be used for before manufacturing them.

"We now spend a huge amount of time upfront thinking about the experiences we want a user to have before we put one transistor on the chip," Krzanich said.

This is the second big investment for Cloudera in as many weeks. The software company last week raised US$160 million from a group of investors including T. Rowe Price, Google Ventures and MSD Capital.

Both Intel and Cloudera have Apache Hadoop distributions for analytics across large data sets. But Intel said that Cloudera will develop Hadoop for Intel architecture -- primarily x86 chips -- as its "preferred platform." The roadmaps of products will ultimately merge and Intel will market Cloudera's Hadoop distribution to customers. That means Intel could ultimately stop the development of its homegrown Apache Hadoop distribution, which has not been deployed by many customers.

Beyond data centers, Intel and Cloudera will work on software to enhance the so-called Internet of Ihings, Intel said. Distributed computing is becoming important in the Internet of things market, in which widely spread data-gathering instruments send information back to servers for analysis.

Intel has already dedicating many software resources, including real-time operating systems from Wind River in endpoints and McAfee's security tools, to ensure data security during the data collection and transmission process. The software resources are being tuned to Intel's low-power Atom chips, which are targeted at sensors and small devices.

Cloudera has always developed software for x86 chips but was also at the forefront of development for ARM processors, which is emerging as a threat to Intel's dominant x86 server chips. But with the shift to focusing development on x86 processors, it remains to be seen how much software Cloudera will write for ARM-based servers.

Companies like Oracle and Citrix are contributing code to support the 64-bit version of ARM processors, which are expected to ship from companies like Advanced Micro Devices, Applied Micro and Cavium late this year or early next year.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

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