Hector Ruiz, chairman and CEO of AMD has won the 2006 Morgan Stanley Leadership Award for Global Commerce, awarded by Techworld's sister title, Computerworld, and was recently appointed to the US President's Council of Advisors for Science and Technology. He spoke with Computerworld in advance of the ceremony.
Q: Analysts say AMD's success with Opteron will help ensure competitive pricing and accelerate the pace of innovation in the chip market. How do you stay competitive with Intel on technology?
A: First of all, we're a really focused company, and we made a decision to throw all our energy into x86. There is no other company in the world doing that. We also made a decision a few years back that intimacy with customers was going to be critical to us for leveraging R&D effectively. We couldn't afford to kind of play around and hope we could cram down the customers' throats our great ideas. I think that is the answer to how we can compete with 10 percent of the money that our competitor has.
Q: The other side of that question is -- will it lead to innovation?
A: I think having two strong companies competing will lead to significantly better innovation. Intel has announced some improved products [that are expected] later on this year. Frankly, I believe they would not be doing that if we had not been as successful.
Q: How far can multi-core development reasonably go on the x86 platform?
A: Quad-core chips are expected, and eight-core ones later on. It really will be driven by what the customers will benefit from. We're going to demonstrate, along with our competitors, that four cores is a done deal and eight cores is not a technology challenge. Technically speaking, frankly, I don't see why you couldn't put 100 cores on a chip.
Q: Power consumption is becoming a huge issue in data centres. At some point, do you see users making trade-offs between the performance and power consumption of microprocessors?
A: I most definitely do. People are going to want to optimise the balance between performance and power consumption, so I think performance per watt will become a much more meaningful metric than just raw performance or one-core power consumption alone.
Q: Do you see virtualisation as a potential threat to how you differentiate your products?
A: I see virtualisation as a great opportunity for us as well as for the customers. Today, when we have the possibility of putting in the data centre or in the back office this huge capability on clusters of computing power, and at very low cost and very low energy consumption, then it really opens up the possibility -- because of virtualisation -- to have a much more intelligent deployment of clients that will also optimise performance per watt. Because of the more centralised nature of that approach, you can have much better control over cost, security and a number of other things.
Q: What would you like to accomplish as part of the [US] President's Council of Advisors for Science and Technology?
A: The field of opportunity is so big that it's a challenge enough just to decide what do we focus on. It has to be focused; otherwise, it gets to be a giant dissertation on science and technology. What we've chosen to do so far, is to really focus on trying to anticipate trends in science and technology. We can then provide the president with some understanding of the priorities that we think this country needs to have to ensure a long-term competitive position. It's not addressing a specific technology.
Q: Do you have concerns about the ability of the US to maintain leadership in technology and basic scientific research?
A: The biggest concern I have has to do with education. It is one of the most, if not the most, significant challenges that we have to address: the educational shortcomings that we have in this country.