In a whopper of deal, Intel today announced that it is acquiring McAfee for $7.68 billion. On the surface it looks like Intel is elbowing into the software space, but snagging one of the premier IT security firms is also indicative of a three-pronged plan of attack for cloud computing and data centers.
Intel’s CEO, Paul Otellini, pretty much said so. “In the past, energy-efficient performance and connectivity have defined computing requirements. Looking forward, security will join those as a third pillar of what people demand from all computing experiences,” he said. Note that he wrapped it all in a nice little green bow. Sure, it shows an awareness of the eco-savvy times we live in, but there’s a solid business reason to add security to the mix.
The Green IT implications
Two of the hottest markets right now are cloud computing and mobile devices, both of which overlap to a certain extent and are rewriting the rules of IT energy consumption by shifting the data processing and storage workloads from PCs and servers to efficiently operated data centers. To drive both markets further and enjoy the skyward ride up to big profits, it’s in Intel’s best interest to attack one of the biggest areas of uncertainty affecting them: security.
Note how many times in the official YouTube video announcement (embedded below) that Internet-connected mobile devices are mentioned. There are also fleeting references to McAfee’s R&D (hmm…) and embedded systems.
But it’s Intel’s press release that spells it out:
Home to two of the most innovative labs and research in the high-tech industry, Intel and McAfee will also jointly explore future product concepts to further strengthen security in the cloud network and myriad of computers and devices people use in their everyday lives.
Weak mobile security is a detriment to the cloud’s growth, and vice versa. To continue selling server and mobile processors in an increasingly cloudy future, the chipmaker is discovering that it has to push security from both those vantage points.
Let’s also remember that like many other big tech firms, Intel has its sights set on the smart grid and intelligent energy systems for buildings and electric cars. If Intel is successful in infusing McAfee’s computer security know-how into next-gen chips and co-processors, it could make things tougher for hackers that target smart meters, energy infrastructures, EVs and home area networks. In the data center, “hardened” servers could help administrators free up some real estate and cut energy costs by retiring security appliances (although it would cannibalize McAfee’s security hardware business).
The opportunities for IT and home energy savings sure are tantalizing, but will Intel deliver? For now, the company plans to operate McAfee as a wholly-owned subsidiary. However, if it plans to take home a healthy slice of the growing green data center market, Intel will want to start splicing some of McAfee’s DNA into its product roadmaps sooner rather than later.