So what does RISC really mean to you?

Have you ever asked yourself that question when you are bombarded with marketing messages from multiple different companies on why choose their products vs. a competitors product?. As a non-Engineer in an engineer centric company, I certainly have thought about this several times and asked myself a very simple question - Why should I choose one architecture type over another offering?

I suppose the best place is to start at the beginning and try and decipher the acronym soup of RISC, x86 etc. I decided to use my ‘old friend’ Wikipedia to help with this process. What I found was another alphabet soup that I could have researched for hours, but try and simplify it below. I attach my detailed definition findings at end of this blog.

Simply put, RISC (pronounced risk) is a CPU design to use simplified instructions to execute very fast thus providing higher performance. x86 is a generic term that refers to the instruction set of another CPU architecture. So basically both RISC and x86 are types of instruction sets linked to CPU architecture.

So which one should I choose?.

Call me old fashioned, but as a business guy, it always comes down to 3 basic tenets in terms of making a decision

1) I like choice and the ability to pick and choose between multiple suppliers to get the best deal to meet my needs.(and the ability to change supplier without major obstacles)

2) Performance is really important. The higher performance means that I get my work done quicker which reduces the overall cost / improves time to revenue and ultimately improves the productivity of my business

3) System cost and total cost of ownership are key decision points in today’s era which is vastly different from the ‘’ boom. It is all about managing the bottom line through good decisions around CAPEX and OPEX spending

I applied my decision criteria and quickly found out that there is not a lot of choice from a hardware and operating system perspective with RISC architecture. In fact it looks quite the opposite of choice which always concerns me, call me pro-choice if you like, but I like the ability to move around suppliers!. On the other hand I found x86 to have lots of choice with many hardware vendors to list and a range of operating systems from windows to Linux and Solaris.

Having choice out of the way, I then moved onto performance for my business and looked at published results from many hardware vendors on different websites like what I found was that Intel based systems had a lot of leading results against architectures like SPARC from SUN or Fujitsu and POWER from IBM.

I then looked at price (and being an ex-Accountant in my past career) nearly jumped for joy when I saw that system prices were low for x86 systems compared to the comparable RISC systems.

This analysis helped me understand it better and helped simplify my decision making.

Here is a short video with a little bit more detail. I would be interested in your thoughts and have you had any similar experiences that you would like to share.

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