After years of neglect, AMD has spent much of 2012 refocusing its efforts in the server market, beefing up its technology offerings and recruiting new leadership.
In February, AMD announced it would acquire microserver startup SeaMicro Inc. in a deal worth $334 million. In June, the company appointed Suresh Gopalakrishnan, a longtime industry veteran and former vice president of engineering at Extreme Networks, to the role of vice president and general manager of its server business.
On Monday (Aug. 27), AMD launched a pair of graphics cards for compute, virtual desktop infrastructure and workstation graphics deployments in data centers, the AMD FirePro S9000 and S7000. The company also announced the results of benchmark testing that it said indicates that virtualization environments running on AMD Opteron processor-based servers can reduce capital expenses by up to 30 percent versus competitors—a savings that the company said can amount to $130,000 or more for a single server rack.
Gopalakrishnan—who prior to his tenure at Extreme Networks also held positions at Riverstone Networks/Cabletron Systems, ZSP Corp., Sun Microsystems and Hewlett-Packard Co.—spent his first 10 weeks on the job cobbling together a plan of attack for AMD's server resurgence. From 2007 through last year, he said, AMD reduced emphasis on its Opteron server processors and saw its market share tumble. (According to International Data Corp., AMD's 2011 market share in x86 server and workstation processors fell to just 5.5 percent, compared to more than 94 percent for Intel Corp.)
But since being named AMD's President and CEO just over a year ago, Rory Read has consistently talked of AMD's desire to become a resurgent player in the market for server chips, particularly with regard to the trend toward virtualization in the data center.
Gopalakrishnan said in a recent interview that the company has refined its strategy for resurgence in the server market, focusing its efforts on both public and private clouds and Big Data. These are the areas where AMD believes it technology can offer genuine value proposition and provide relief for customer pain points, he said.
"I'm a firm believer that a value proposition doesn't mean anything to anyone unless it solves a problem," Gopalakrishnan said.
In narrowing its focus, Gopalakrishnan said AMD had to agree it would cede certain segments of the market to the competition, including traditional high-performance computing.
Gopalakrishnan refers to virtualization as the "sweet spot" for Operton processors. The firm's Opteron 4200 and 6200 series processors provide customers with scalability and lower cost per virtualized machine for consolidating servers and building public or private clouds, he said.
It remains to be seen how successful AMD's renewed focus on the server market will eventually believe. But Gopalakrishnan believes his background—with experience in hardware and software—will help AMD tailor its approach to various business opportunities. He firmly believes there is no "one size fits all" approach to improving modern data centers.
"It's really about how we aim the business at each individual opportunity," Gopalakrishnan said.
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.