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The Margin Q1 2018

The Margin Q1 2018

Chips, change and the channel

As the brain that processes computing tasks, the trusty CPU underpins the computing paradigm, and today is found in servers, desktops, notebooks, tablets, smartphones and smartwatches. As we move to a world where Internet of Things becomes a reality, the spread of CPUs will boom as all manner of devices at the ‘edge’ require them.

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Then there’s the GPU, which has traditionally been the crown jewel of the gamer’s rig, but is experiencing unprecedented demand due to its suitability for crypto-currency mining and artificial intelligence workloads.

Looking at the industry, Samsung recently ended Intel's 25-year run as the world's biggest seller of chipsets. GPU specialist Nvidia's sales and stock price have rocketed in the past couple of years. Microsoft's partnership with Qualcomm to bring Windows 10 to ARM-powered devices caused a stir when the announcements were made in December 2017. This market segment is currently experiencing a huge wave of change.

Among all of this industry dynamics disruption, the potentially devastating Spectre and Meltdown flaws were revealed earlier this year. If weaponised, these flaws, which are inherent in at least a decade’s worth of CPU architecture, have massive potential to affect the security of an untold number of hardware devices and ultimately access to the data on them.

This ‘Chipgate’ story has received significant coverage overseas, but it seems local industry voices are not really talking about it on the public stage. Perhaps they’re leaving the international HQs of the big players to take the lead. The only real comment I’ve seen locally is about the importance of keeping updates up to date. Although, it would seem Spectre can only be partially patched with updates.

Meltdown was discovered by numerous researchers around the same time, and the abstract from a multi-authored Meltdown whitepaper, by a of the original research groups, spells how devastating it could be. “On affected systems, Meltdown enables an adversary to read memory of other processes or virtual machines in the cloud without any permissions or privileges, affecting millions of customers and virtually every user of a personal computer.”

Let the implications of that sink in. What does this mean for the future of the cloud, which is supported by datacentres filled with millions of virtual machines? What are the potential implications for the local channel of these two flaws? How does it affect stock already in the distribution chain?

In this edition of The Margin, we look at all these issues. We also look at what the local economic climate potentially holds for the channel in 2018, opportunities around electric cars and how digitalisation can disrupt business models in the channel. Our roundtable is about one technology that's experiencing continual growth – storage.

I hope you find something of interest in these pages.

Adrian Hinchcliffe
Editor
adrian@itweb.co.za



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