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For every 400 smartphones, you need 1 server

Above: Intel's estimate of devices per server

Image Credit: Intel

The explosion of smart devices is driving the growth of data centers. Intel illustrated that point today by showing exactly how many servers are required to serve the internet needs of the newfangled devices. The numbers tell us why data centers are growing so fast, and why servers are going to be as plentiful as cows some day.

Intel svp Diane Bryant

Above: Intel svp Diane Bryant

Image Credit: Intel

Diane Bryant, senior vice president in charge of Intel’s data center chip business, said at the company’s analyst day today that one Intel-based server has to be deployed to support 400 smartphones. That means that a high-performance server has to do the processing required to handle data services and serve web pages to those smartphones.

This is one of the facts of the digital age that is driving 20 percent compound annual growth (from 2013 to 2017) in data center revenues in the cloud, high-performance computing, and telecommunications segment. Overall data center growth will be lower since enterprise growth is pegged at 8 percent, Bryant said.

Bryant also said that one server is required for every 40 connected factory tools. One server is required for every 100 wearable medical devices, and one server is required for every 20 digital signs, which serve high-definition images and videos to retail stores.

Intel said that digital services are scaling rapidly. Bryant noted that WeChat, Tencent’s mobile messaging service, has grown from zero to 400 million users in just two years. She said such services are part of the rise of a “digital service economy,” all enabled by the internet and the data centers that serve as its backbone.

“The rise of the digital services economy is driving the data center,” she said.

About 75 percent of cloud server growth is coming from consumer services, such as those provided to smartphones.

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