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Intel® recently launched its new third generation Intel® Xeon® scalable processor—formerly known as Ice Lake. Its impact will be felt in fields from AI to security. What will that mean for you, your business, and your industry?
Kenton Williston, Editor-in-Chief of insight.tech, talks about the launch with tech expert Dr. Sally Eaves, and Yazz Krdzalic, Director of Marketing and Business Development at Trenton Systems. As well as taking a deep dive into Ice Lake, they’ll look at some of the surprising new ways Intel is changing its outlook on business collaboration, and what all this means for the IoT space.
Diving Into the Lake
Kenton Williston: Yazz, welcome to the show. So, what does Trenton Systems do?
Yazz Krdzalic: Trenton Systems makes trusted, cyber-secure, made-in-USA, high performance computing solutions—and that’s across the industrial, military, and commercial sectors. Our system supports critical IT infrastructures around the globe, and we help reduce latency and provide real-time insights at the Edge, while also securing sensitive and confidential information.
Kenton Williston: Sally, welcome to you as well. Can you tell our listeners a little bit about yourself?
Dr. Sally Eaves: I’m a Chief Technology Officer by background, and now mostly do advisory around emergent technology subjects—so, across cloud, cybersecurity, IoT, 5G, AI, and blockchain. I’m also passionate about tech as a force for good, so I have a nonprofit called Aspirational Futures. It’s very much around inclusion and diversity in tech and really building that out, as well as tech change.
Kenton Williston: I want to start by talking about that Ice Lake launch event. What was your biggest takeaway?
Dr. Sally Eaves: I think it was one of the best event presentations I’ve seen in some time. I love the fact there were many real-world, tangible examples in there, as well as research that was underpinning things. I really came up with four areas that came to the fore for me—built-in security, embedded AI, network optimization, but also that “tech as a force for good.” If have to pick one that brought these things together, I’d actually focus on that.
Kenton Williston: From the IoT perspective, AI was one of the things that really stood out to me—a huge, huge emphasis on how much additional AI performance is in these new Ice Lake chips compared to previous generations. And I’m curious what you think about why Intel has such an emphasis on AI.
Dr. Sally Eaves: I was really impressed with, for example, the improved AI-acceleration capabilities. It’s showing it’s a great alternative to GPUs, and other kinds of dedicated accelerators as well. I think something else that came to the fore for me was the fact that AI is bringing together influencing capabilities across simulation and also data-analytic workloads. I don’t think that gets enough attention sometimes. I think we sometimes look at AI only with attention to analytics.
The other thing that came to the fore was the Intel DL Boost facility. Again, this AI acceleration is so important for areas around, for example, 3D—for gaming, for different use cases across different tech trends. We’ve already seen examples where data scientists are using the new processor to help build out and deploy increasingly smarter models, and improving that rate to go from POC to production.
Kenton Williston: Yazz, Intel is reporting some very impressive gains in performance in these AI, deep learning, machine learning kinds of areas. Where do you see the big wins in terms of how this performance is going to help your customers, and things like industrial and other types of IoT applications?
Yazz Krdzalic: I’m honestly quite tempted to say—everywhere. Because when we think about deep learning and machine learning—efficiency is key. The reason really is that the better, the faster you can make predictions, the better the business outcome.
As for the way it will have the biggest impact in industrial or other IoT applications, I would really like to mention the fourth Industrial Revolution—or Industry 4.0, as we call it—that will benefit greatly from this performance boost. You start thinking about smart factories, smart sensors, IoT devices collecting lots and lots of data. And, as Sally mentioned, with AI acceleration already caked into it. So it’s truly a beautiful symphony. You’re receiving a lot of this data using these complex algorithms to make accurate, calculated decisions at record speeds.
Say you have a train going down the tracks carrying lots of precious, heavy cargo—that train eventually has to stop for a manual inspection, which takes lots of time, lots of resources—simply disrupts the flow. So now you put the 4K cameras, for example, on the side of those tracks with a ruggedized system, such as Trenton’s latest BAM Server using Intel’s third-gen Xeon CPUs.
Now you are able to snap images of the train as it passes by, never stopping, and this image recognition and analysis can quickly scan, calculate, analyze, predict, and make decisions without stopping the train if there is no need. So Intel’s latest CPUs can do this one-and-a-half-times faster, or almost 50% faster. I mean, how cool is that?
Hardening the System
Kenton Williston: The other thing that really stood out to me was the security features. I’d like to know more about what kind of security features your customers are asking for, and how the new features in Ice Lake might relate to that.
Yazz Krdzalic: How much time do we have to talk about security? Because everywhere you look, that seems to be a major topic now. Our customers are very concerned about it. And we’re not just talking software-level concern anymore—we have to look at the system and the environment holistically. I think a lot of people are referring to this now as confidential computing; we tend to refer to it as system hardening.
At the end of the day, our customers want to be protected from unwanted access to their data. And Intel security features such as TME, total memory encryption; SGX, software guard extensions; or PFR, platform firmware resilience, are just some of those key features that are truly enhancing system-wide security.
Kenton Williston: Sally, I know you were also pretty impressed by the security features.
Dr. Sally Eaves: I couldn’t agree more with the fact that security is front of mind. It doesn’t matter if you’re enterprise or SME. So embedding this in by design—that breeds trust. To an extent, it’s about these confidential computing and privacy-preserving techniques.
I think I’d also mention acceleration as well—Intel crypto acceleration—it reduces the impact of full data encryption, and it increases performance. So that’s hugely important as well for encrypted sensitive workloads.
Kenton Williston: Yazz, some of the things I think your customers would care a lot about would be some of the IO upgrades, like the upgraded PCIe. Can you tell me what really stood out to you on that front?
Yazz Krdzalic: These different applications that we’re thinking about in the future—they’re just requiring more and more performance, so having an increased core count does just that. And you mentioned PCIe gen-four support. So, one of our newest servers has 11 of these by 16 PCIe gen-four slots. That increases system-wide performance.
And Sally mentioned this—AI acceleration is already built in. The system supports Intel Optane persistent memory 200 series, which is the next-gen persistent memory. It increases agility and access to more data that’s closer to the CPU. Again, think speed here.
Kenton Williston: Over the last couple of years Intel has really been broadening its vision—not just thinking about itself as a chip company, but putting more and more investment into software frameworks. The frameworks that they built—called OpenVINO and oneAPI—are particularly important in actually enabling you to use these high-performance features. So I’m curious how the folks there at Trenton are actually using these frameworks, and how your customers are using these frameworks to take advantage of the next-generation features.
Yazz Krdzalic: The key takeaway here for me is that Intel is building the hardware and the tools for customers—OEMs such as Trenton, and the very engineers using it. So it just goes to show how meticulous Intel really is when it comes to building quality product, and that they’re dedicated to enabling engineers to get work done better, faster than yesterday.
It really spans across that entire ecosystem—from us as a manufacturer of these systems, to the customers that we sell them to. You have performance, security, and everything we’ve mentioned before, but you also now have a lot of these tools that enable you to do your job better, faster.
Tech for Good
Kenton Williston: At the end of the day, it’s the real-world benefits that matter—can you more readily catch a defect, or increase the security and safety or your system, or whatever it might be. Sally, that was something that stood out to me about this launch—the emphasis on real-world benefits. And I loved how Intel brought in all of its customers and partners. So I’m curious what you think about this different philosophical direction Intel is taking.
Dr. Sally Eaves: I love that there was a focus on supporting customers—reducing complexity. There was integration—bringing together software, silicon platforms, packaging, process-at-scale manufacturing, and really showing how to tackle the problems that organizations are suffering from. I love the fact that we were talking about how to support when we go into the performance stage of things.
It felt like a real development across the portfolio. It feels, again, more of a systems-level solution approach. So I think that’s very, very important to support organizations, support customers—reducing complexity.
And going back to “tech for good,” listening to community—there’s a sustained commitment there. I believe wholeheartedly that leadership in technology goes beyond the tech—it’s the people behind it, it’s what you apply the tech for. We’re seeing that it’s not a one-off, it’s not an add-on—it’s truly embedded, and it’s supporting projects. And again, it’s supporting collaborations as well—it’s bringing people together, it’s co-creating solutions, bringing technology and talent.
Kenton Williston: Yazz, you’re an Intel customer—are you seeing any difference in the experience in working with Intel?
Yazz Krdzalic: So, Intel over the years has invested so much, and it seems to have just doubled down on the strategy to improve the products, services, processes, and procedures, and the Intel brand. It truly feels that the mission has become a betterment of all, rather than just the company.
At Trenton, we’re currently working on the sixth early-access program to collaborate with Intel on the next-gen technologies, and we’re truly excited to be part of that story and effort, and look forward to supporting our customers with Intel’s latest and greatest for generations to come. And so Intel is also determined to make their partner ecosystem a collaborator in tomorrow’s technologies, and Trenton Systems is truly honored to be part of this mission.
The Future Is Integrated
Kenton Williston: I’d like to wrap up, Sally, with a question to you: What are some of the key trends we might want to keep an eye on as we’re moving forward?
Dr. Sally Eaves: I think number one is the rise of social business. I thought the launch was a huge statement around that, and embedding impact, embedding community, embedding collaboration at the very heart of digital transformation. I think we’re seeing a continued confluence, basically, across four key areas—hybrid cloud; AI; network and cloud; and 5G deployments.
And, again, this flexibility around performance is going to be hugely important going forward as these trends continue. Other areas to look at—the data center of the future looking incredibly different; storage and memory increasingly disaggregated; security being architected continually at the chip level and continually enhanced.
And this increased flexibility and this bringing together across hardware, software—this integration—and now obviously applications and services as well. So I’m really excited about where we’re going here, but the future is definitely integrated.