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Sep 30, 2014

AMD Strategy to Set Off to Free Itself from Intel and It Has Succeeded




Advanced Micro Devices had some management problems back in 2009-2010, and it didn't get out of them even after it hired Rory P. Read as CEO in August 2011. But the Chief Executive Officer immediately set about cleaning house, and changed the company's direction too, for good measure.

In a nutshell, the man's idea was that Advanced Micro Devices would be better off if its products stopped being compared to Intel's all the time. Understandably enough, everyone was skeptical about AMD's chances of freeing its brand from automatic association with Intel's products. Especially after the fiasco of the 8-Core Bulldozer CPUs that didn't live up to their hype (to say the least). Fast forward to 2014, though, and the company has pretty much already managed it. Sure, it had to drop high-end, enthusiast-grade CPUs/APUs completely, but its other moves seem to be paying dividends.

The APU business unit

Accelerated Processing Units are essentially CPUs with full-on GPUs integrated into them, from the Radeon line, instead of meager iGPs (integrated graphics processors) like what Intel still offers. Basically, AMD has managed to merge together the mid-range CPU with the mid-range GPU. While it did that, it managed to kill a large part of NVIDIA's customer base too, since not only did it have to give up low-end add-in boards, but some mainstream adapters too. That's why, today, mainstream graphics cards are what would have qualified as upper-end boards a few years ago. Sure, APUs still don't sell nearly as well as Intel CPUs do, as a whole, but last I heard, AMD had managed to increase its CPU share by a little bit. As for graphics, the company definitely stole some of NVIDIA's market share.

The Opteron A-Series server CPUs based on ARM architecture

AMD has shown real support for the ARM architecture on the big data / data center markets. Intel refuses to even consider the notion, but AMD released the Seattle A-Series Opteron CPU back in August. The chip is based on ARM Cortex-A57 cores, which fully support 64-bit instructions. More importantly, AMD has just launched a demo of Apache Hadoop running on a system based on this particular processor. With this, the company has placed itself squarely at the head of the ARM server industry. Until now, ARM-based processors only made it in a handful of microservers, which themselves came to be in no small part due to AMD's efforts.

And yet, there seem to be no signs of the heated AMD-Intel rivalry sparking on this side of the field. Just like it seems to be dying on the CPU market. In fact, the only rivalry involving AMD that still seems to be going on is the one with NVIDIA, and that's precisely on the matter of add-in video boards.

What it all means

Some may say it's a bit too early to tell, but AMD has really managed to avoid a potentially serious, if not fatal, slide downwards. In fact, it appears to have reformed itself into something a lot more self-determined that it was before. It took a lot of work, and the firing of quite a few people to pull it off, but everything seems to have worked out. Now we just have to wait for those fabled 2018-bound hybrid x86-ARM processors and we'll really have something to swoon over. Assuming the mishap of Bulldozer doesn't repeat, that is, but I think AMD can avoid the same hype implosion.

AMD Opteron A1100
Image credits to AMD

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