RealTime IT News

Can AMD Deliver on Aggressive Agenda?

SUNNYVALE, Calif. – Conventional wisdom has it that Intel is ready to bring its considerable resources to bear and stomp pesky competitor AMD back into distant second place, where it had been up until recently. Intel plans a major set of product launches over the next year and is in the midst of a billion dollar cost-cutting restructuring designed to make it a leaner, meaner competitor.

AMD must have missed the memo.

The company made a series of bullish presentations during a Technology Day for press and analysts on Thursday here at its headquarters. AMD said it's revised earlier projections upwards and now expects to grow its share of the server market to over 30 percent by the end of this year. Currently, AMD's share is a bit over 20 percent. "We're on a quest to become a major force in the commercial market," said Marty Seyer, senior vice president of AMD's commercial business unit.

AMD also made several technology announcements it said give it a competitive edge versus Intel. A new mobile platform, quad-core plans and a new "thin computing" architecture were discussed to varying degrees of detail.

The thin computing "Raiden" initiative was perhaps the most ambitious of the announcements, but also the most poorly detailed. While AMD is a big supplier to so-called thin client providers such as market leader Wyse, Raiden is a project to reinvent commercial clients, including desktop PCs.

AMD said further details and announcements by AMD's partners on Raiden were "imminent."

"We expect that thin computing will be different than thin client, which is a preconceived architecture," said Seyer. Thin computing will include traditional fat client devices such as high performance PCs. Seyer said AMD is working on technologies such as virtualization that will partition a PC or other device so the user gets the computing resources they need, but with better management and security control by the IT department. Better power efficiency would also be a feature.

"IT wouldn't have to spend the thousands of dollars they do now to support a $599 PC," said Joe Menard, corporate vice president of AMD's consumer business segment.

Intel has its own plans for a better managed, more secure business client. In April, the chip giant announced its vPro business brand. The first vPro desktops are set to appear this summer based on Intel's forthcoming "Conroe" microprocessor, it's fastest desktop chip to date.

But AMD insists it has a more aggressive idea that will shift the focus from physical client computing to the delivery of client services for both traditional clients and new form factors. AMD's biggest gains versus Intel have been in the server and consumer desktop areas. Seyer said its relative weakness in corporate desktops presents a big competitive opportunity.

"We don't have much to lose going after the traditional desktop [in a new way], but Intel has a lot to lose," said Seyer.

Separately, AMD spelled out its plans to license its coherent HyperTransport technology, paving the way for a raft of coprocessor products from other companies.

The Terrenza initiative leverages AMD's investment in direct connect architecture and HyperTransport. "Terrenza will enable the collective brilliance of the industry for solutions we don't even know about today," said AMD president Dirk Meyer. "At the end of the day it will allow us to break free and reinvent the industry."

AMD expects Terrenza to enable coprocessors that will greatly improve performance in such areas as networking, media and XML processing.

Rounding out a busy day of announcements, AMD detailed its quad-core, mobile plans as well as a high-end platform for gamers called 4x4.

By the middle of next year, AMD expects to have released its first quad-core processors, which will be designed for servers, workstations and high-end desktops. AMD's chief technology officer Phil Hester said the quad-core design will implement DICE (Dynamic Independent Core Engagement) for better power efficiency. Essentially, DICE enables control of the individual cores so if only one core is needed for a particular task, the others stand by and don't consume power.

Sometime in the second half of 2007 AMD also plans to unveil a new mobile computing architecture it said will enable better battery life and power efficiency. Intel dominates the mobile space and has long been at the cutting edge of power design for x86 mobile systems. The future AMD chips will include the ability to dynamically power on or off one or both of the cores in a dual-core processor.