Published in PC Hardware

AMD CSO John Byrne talks ARM

by on23 April 2014

It’s not just the license, it’s the infrastructure

We had a chance to talk about AMD’s upcoming products with John Byrne, Chief Sales Officer, AMD. We covered a number of topics including ARM processors already announced by the company. Byrne confirmed that customers are excited about the new Seattle chip and that there is lot of interest.

John reminded us that there is more to AMD’s ARM parts than just getting a license to build an ARM based chip. There is nothing special in making an ARM instruction set chip that looks like everything else on the market.

Talent is AMD’s key ARM differentiator

AMD thinks it can differentiate its ARM parts from competing designs thanks to its decades of experience in this space. AMD believes products like Seattle has a very good chance of succeeding in the market.

First you need world-class hardware engineers developing the processor, then you need engineers who are able to provide world-class support in enabling a platforms, compilers and benchmarks. You then need Field Application Engineers (FAEs) who can support any technical demands the customers may have to ensure it is the right product for them. Oh and then you need to know the Top customers of which AMD has relationships for decades.

At the end of the day the key component is the people behind the project. Field application engineers work with customers, you need good partners, key accounts and people who maintain them and a great sales team that can bring in money and generate profitable margins for the company.

John reminded us that ARM server chip pioneer Calxeda was missing some of these components that were necessary for success. Since Intel doesn’t plan to offer ARM based servers, AMD has a great opportunity there. We also hear that customers are crying out for AMD to be more competitive in the server space as Intel is taking advantage right now by keeping profit to themselves and not their customers.

64-bit market leader

AMD sees itself as a leader in 64-bit ARM servers and everything indicates that this is a market with high growing potential (AMD believes that by 2019 it could represent 25% of the server market). With Seattle shipping in the second half of 2014, we believe this 64-bit ARM part will play a vital role in getting more business back to AMD’s server business unit. It will take time though, hence AMD does not expect to see much of a market share increase or revenues this year.

Byrne believes AMD’s transformation from a PC focused company to a more diversified organisation with more presence in alternative markets is playing out well. As you can imagine a lot has changed in the last five or six years as the Apple changed the consumer landscape with iPhones and iPads.

However, smart devices need a huge server infrastructure to unlock their potential, so the need for new, power efficient servers is greater than ever. At least some of them will be based on the ARM architecture, just like most smart devices. This is where AMD sees a big opportunity for its server business.

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