Hey, remember when you could buy a computer, or a workstation, or a server, that didn’t run on x86, or at least Intel? Remember those violet Sun Fire servers with SPARC processors? How about AMD Athlons and Opterons?
Some weeks ago I read an insightful article about the “untimely demise” of workstations and how the rise of commodity hardware killed vertically integrated, high-end computers, the same way it killed non-x86 servers. HN comments section came up with many explanations and arguments as to why this happened, naturally, but no one disputes the fact: even on the lower end of consumer desktop PCs, Intel reigned supreme for decades. Until now.
Not only is AMD back in the game with Ryzen, which, if you believe my games-are-best-on-the-PC friends, is now the number one choice of PC-builders not because of its performance, not just price, but also Apple finally presented its
ARM Apple silicon-based computers yesterday. Yes, it’s the first generation, yes, it’s capped at 16 GB of RAM and yes, you probably can’t compile all your important Fortran code on it just yet, but if it can deliver the performance and battery life that Apple claims it can, it’s truly a breakthrough. And finally let’s not forget about the rumored silent rise of RISC-V that will surely soon take over the server market.
So yeah, Intel. We like you, but it appears the days of your supremacy are over. As are, perhaps, the days of general purpose, “okay-at-everything” computers.
(I’m keeping my fingers crossed mainly because I miss the SGI workstations design. Someone please bring back weird-looking computers with exotic hardware and exotic software please.)