AMD has recently seen rival Intel win a couple of rounds. Not only does Intel's quad-core processor have at least a six-month jump on its own, but long-time partner Sun Microsystems recently announced that it will be selling quad-core servers based on chips from both companies.
Still, AMD is pushing on. In the fourth quarter of 2006, AMD for the first time ever garnered more than a quarter of the total x86 processor market, according to Mercury Research. Now AMD has just released some of the first technical details of its upcoming Barcelona processor, the company’s first quad-core offering for the server and workstation market.
Also new: a half-dozen or more partners with application-specific co-processors that AMD promises will yield significantly higher performance levels than possible before, thanks to a direct link with Opteron as part of the Torrenza platform. And this month, AMD introduced new versions of its Geode chips, to power thin-client PCs and other smaller platforms.
Marty Seyer, AMD’s senior vice president of commercial business, recently talked about where he believes AMD is situated with corporate customers.
Q: Is there a feeling within AMD that the company is at an important tipping point in its acceptance by corporate decision-makers? A: As recently as 2003, when we were knocking on the door of the enterprise, candidly, we were not qualified. The momentum kicked in the middle of 2006 with the full adoption of Opteron by all the tier-one [resellers] -- Dell, HP, IBM and Sun. Customers tell us they no longer perceive us as some “Johnny Come Lately,” or second- class player. They telling us we’re a technology leader now, and they expect us to lead.
Q: Initial reports about systems based on Intel’s quad-core Xeon processors have been favourable. Doesn’t AMD have a huge challenge over the next six months to demonstrate it’ll be able to bridge the quad-core gap with Barcelona and regain a clear performance advantage? A: First of all, our competition made no fundamental changes to their architecture for their quad-core product.
They tweaked it and beat us to market with quad-core. We believe we will provide a fundamentally better-balanced architecture. Right now, there is a lot more noise associated with quad-core than actual implementation. We believe when we ship in mid-2007, we’ll be right in the thick of it ... I don’t think we’ve lost momentum.
Q: Last month, Sun Microsystems, which had been offering only AMD-based x86 servers, announced it will begin offering quad-core servers based on Intel’s Xeon processors. If AMD already had its quad-core in place, perhaps Sun wouldn't have made that decision. A: As a company that promotes choice, when one of our [resellers] decides to provide a choice, we can’t speak out against it. We are all about choice. We hope that Sun continues to give customers what they want and we believe they will.
Q: Intel says its approach to quad-core allows it to offer the lowest price and best-performing parts on the market because it can mix and match its highest-yielding dual-core processor die. How will AMD compete? A: We’ve been a pretty scrappy company [We think he means AMD fights back. Ed.] for the past 30 years. When it comes to price, we will be competitive. I’ll let the numbers speak for themselves. When we started 2006, we had a goal of 20 per cent market share, and we hit 25 per cent. We are also continuing our momentum in design wins. Each year we’re seeing a doubling in the number of different platforms offered by our [reseller] partners. This year is also going to mark a major step for us in getting a lot of one-socket server design wins into the market. That is a significant portion of the market we really haven’t participated in until now.
Q: When you’ve been talking to corporate customers this year, what has been the theme from AMD? A: Three things. First is that we are going to continue to push performance per watt. We will set new records with our quad-core.
Second, virtualisation will be even bigger in 2007, and we are making additional enhancements to our embedded virtualisation technology.
The final thing is stability and upgradeability. We have provided an upgrade path from single to dual-core, and are now showing the world how to upgrade from dual- to quad-core, and all with a fully compatible footprint. We have the most stable architecture in the industry.