Early March, AMD announced in Bangalore, the launch of the AMD Radeon HD 6990, which the company claims "the fastest graphics card in the world." What role did India play in that?
Bangalore -- When I met Michael Goddard, vice president, AMD last month, I had this preconceived notion that he would be much impacted by the Great Chip Maker Battle, Intel vs AMD ( not the court battles, which seem to be over at this point of time, but their clashes and rivalry on the technology front), and he would be a watered down version of the super-confident Intel VPs we often see visiting India.
But that wasn’t the case at all. Having put in 23 years with AMD, Goddard with an extremely calm demeanor that revealed that he is still much in love with AMD and even went on to say that it was kind of fun being the underdog. “I love the culture at AMD and there is a lot of opportunity out there. Yes, it is a difficult situation at times and very challenging but I wouldn’t really trade it for any other job, including one at Intel,” he said a laugh.
No doubt Intel leads in the global microprocessor battle with AMD invariably being seen as playing second fiddle to Intel. And, both are intensifying their competition in the graphics enabled microprocessor (GEM) market according to 2011 iSuppli research.
Goddard, who had worked with Dirk Meyer, former CEO, in design engineering in Austin, Texas (when Meyer headed the design team in 96-97), is today extremely upbeat about the path that AMD was on, especially the work coming out of India.
“Today there is a tape out of seven chips a year and two of those come out of India. We are on a path to try and understand how to tape out 20 chips a year and we are trying to come out with a methodology that will scale and a part of that means we have to scale that across the globe. And the talent that we find here in India is just incredible,” he said when he was in Bangalore last month for the launch of the AMD Fusion family of Accelerated Processing units (APUs), a single die design that combines the multi-core CPU (x86) technology with the powerful DirectX 11-capable graphics and a parallel processing engine.
According to him there is an influx of expats into India here. They are able to provide great leadership in the area of silicon design. “And if we augment that with some of university programs that are going on India, we are going to see a much higher quality of design engineering coming out of India,” he said.
“What our India team delivered on Ontario -- the first APU chip out of India -- has instilled a lot of confidence. We are willing to continue to place bets to bring really quality work into and we would be delivering quality work out of India,” he said.
The first APU chip globally was done out of India. In the middle of this year, AMD will launching two more APUs -- one would be from Austin Texas, and the other would be from Bangalore, India.
When asked about Meyers’s departure from the company and whether any strategic changes were in the offing, he said, as far as the company’s short term plans are concerned, nothing has changed. “The products that we are putting in market right now haven’t been changed at all because they were already completed. The products for next year (2012) would also remain unchanged since we are half way done for the products for next year. The year after that (2013), will perhaps begin to see some changes. But it would be only in 2014 that we would be really looking at doing some things differently – things that we have not thought about doing now. But it takes several years for semiconductor companies to change. But that figure of 20 chips to be taped out every year is unchanged as of now. That sure is a lot of chips which basically translates into us looking at newer markets that we don’t serve right now.”
Today, the tablet and embedded space are some of the most promising areas for AMD. “There are also a number of interesting ideas out there that we are currently working on – like how our Fusion family of APUs are applicable in the service space. This is again linked to increasing our available market. We are studying the world market and it would take 2-3 years to implement our ideas,” Goddard added.
When AMD acquired ATI about five years ago, the intention was to become one of the world’s best players in graphics design. “At the time of our acquisition, Nvidia and ATI dominated this space. With our acquisition of ATI, we became the number one player in this place. What we basically do for our APUs is take the graphics technology and work it into our CPUs, put them on a single chip and optimize it together. It was a lot harder to do it than most people realize. We had the older AMD; then, we later acquired ATI. It has taken us almost four years to bring these two companies’ technologies together and come up with an optimum solution,” he said.
It is against this background that, on March 9, 2011 AMD announced in Bangalore, the launch of the AMD Radeon HD 6990, it was claimed to be the fastest graphics card in the world.
-- Sufia Tippu, a frequent contributor to EE Times, is a freelance writer based in India.