AMD's take on the past year and their plans for enterprise IT

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In the consumer space, we have seen a massive surge in demand as people work or learn from home. We sat down with Roger Benson to ask him about the past year, what he has learned and his plans for 2021.

We asked: Across AMD’s commercial product lines and segments, workstations, laptops, and server CPUs as well as workstation GPUs, what are the long-term trends transforming the industry? What will their impact be?

About the author

Roger Benson is Senior Director, Commercial Sales, EMEA at AMD.

AMD is focused on providing winning solutions on-premise and in the cloud. Together with our partners we produce great hardware infrastructure solutions to meet enterprises on-site deployment needs.

AMD is focusing on traditional cloud architectures and hybrid solutions and we are working closely with these providers as well as ISVs such as VMware, to enable the highest levels of cloud security.

Cybersecurity is a key focus area for AMD which extends from our server product line through to our client product line. We offer secure encrypted virtualization, which is the foundation for confidential compute. Many of the confidential compute services that Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure offer are powered by our technology.

In the consumer space, we have seen a massive surge in demand as people work or learn from home. AMD helps here too in terms of security features and manageability. Our AMD PRO Security technologies offer extra layers of security to help ensure people can work remotely, and manage their data.

What role does the cloud play for AMD? How important is the public cloud in this regard?

Enterprise IT wants the best of both worlds, to be able to easily move workloads between on-premise data centers and the public cloud. We are collaborating closely with ISVs to make sure hybrid cloud solutions work well for customers when running on our processors.

What does AMD expect from GAIA-X? How important is GAIA-X for AMD?

AMD is a member of the GAIA-X eco Association. While we will contribute to the specifications for the federated multi-cloud environment envisioned by Gaia-X, our intention is to make sure the infrastructure standards as defined are kept as open as possible. We believe open standards are in the best interests of cloud providers and end users. Open standards enable workloads to be freely moved between cloud providers without customers being locked in to any one vendor or technology.

Many end users place a great deal of value on data sovereignty, security, and privacy. The expertise we have in security for the cloud and elsewhere can help guide GAIA-X as it defines its framework for operation. We are working with the project to help make sure that, as they develop the standards and how it is going to operate, it is kept as open as possible.

There is strength in diversity and realizing that strength requires a lot of close collaboration, enabling everyone to work together as efficiently as possible. Europe will require a common, open approach to remain competitive. International businesses must be able to operate freely across the whole European landscape. Companies must not feel that they need one approach for one country and one for another.

This can be a positive aspect of GAIA-X if it is defined well and openly. People using the standard will be able to operate in the cloud without restriction, potentially even in multi-cloud environments with multiple vendors, all of whom have subscribed to the GAIA-X standards. That will enable businesses to operate freely, smoothly and compete internationally.

What is AMD doing to ensure it is not left behind in the AI race?

Organizations can use our server AMD EPYC processors to support AI decision making or inference workloads. They can also use our AMD Instinct data center GPU family of products to support AI inference, as well as deep learning training workloads. There will be a greater focus from AMD in 2021 and in the coming years on expanding that GPU portfolio, this will be an incredible asset for expanding our business in the AI segment.

What are AMD’s plans for 5G technologies?

The global telco infrastructure sector has been transitioning to software-defined networks over the past few years. Many telco solutions are now based on standard commercial off-the-shelf servers from international server OEMs such as HPE, Dell, Lenovo, and others. We have been working very closely with these OEMs and large telco players such as Nokia and Ericsson. We believe the way forward is simply to take advantage of that software-defined transition, using standard servers from vendors.

How has AMD factored customer priorities into the design of its products and the way it works with key partners such as OEMs and the channel?

We have listened to partners who told us there was a need for high-performance together with energy efficiency. Energy efficiency is a key criterion whether you are building a data center or whether you just want longer battery life from your laptop. AMD has put a lot of effort in over the past several years to make sure we are taking advantage of the latest manufacturing processes, such as 7nm technology. There is also the architectural design which AMD has conceived from the ground up to reduce energy consumption. This represents a massive reduction in electricity consumption for our customers which has a dramatic effect on their bottom line and their operational management. For individuals, this increased efficiency is part of the reason they can use their laptops for much longer without having to recharge.

What is AMD’s strategy for pushing the adoption of its commercial technologies?

The most fundamental one is raising awareness. Once enterprises try AMD, they realize the advantages. We use an x86 architecture that is completely software compatible with our competitors so end users can seamlessly move to AMD without having to worry. We have successfully built confidence in the market that AMD is committed to enterprise for the long term, by delivering several generations of successful products across server and client ranges. This is paying dividends as AMD is now regularly considered for proofs of concept which leads to volume deployments of our products across servers and in fleets of clients for enterprise IT.

What steps are you taking to strengthen relationships with channel partners and integrators?

We realize the full value chain is important. We have been increasing staffing for our channel organizations worldwide to ensure a uniformly good experience. AMD works closely with its key customers across both the client and server spaces. Rather than operate in siloes, we talk and compare notes to make sure we are doing the best we can to take care of all our channel partners. This means providing the quality content they need, the right incentive programs and the educational materials for their customers, end users and local integrators. Through a combination of OEM partnerships with the channel and by striving to make all our materials and programs best in class, we are continually strengthening our relationships with channel partners.

For customers who have switched from a competitor product to AMD in the past, what strategies worked from an AMD, OEM, or channel partner perspective?

We win when we can foster an open-minded willingness to try AMD in customers because once they try, we find that they switch to AMD-based systems at a very high rate. We work closely with partners, OEMs, and customers to facilitate proofs of concept. In some cases, we work closely with software vendors to make sure the solution is tuned and optimized for their needs, while getting every ounce of performance out of our products.

Can you tell us anything about the roadmaps for AMD’s workstation and server products? What should the market be looking out for over the next year?

Keep a lookout for more OEMs announcing workstations using AMD technology this year, based on AMD Ryzen Threadripper PRO and EPYC processors. You will see new products based on AMD EPYC using the Zen 3 architecture in the data center and cloud sectors, as well as broader product and services portfolios from our OEM and cloud partners.

To what extent does OEM and ISV feedback play a role in the development of AMD products?

We listen closely to our customers at all levels, from end users who are trying to solve business problems to OEMs who are working closely with them too. For example, in the last year or two we have released performance-optimized versions of our AMD EPYC server processors. These are being used for situations where customers need very high frequency, very low latency, and very high overall performance per core.

We did this in response to feedback from customers for specific use cases, like users of CAD and data-automation applications who told us that this is what they needed from a processor. This is how AMD tunes into the needs of individual segments and listens to our OEM and end user customers when creating new products.

Roger Benson

Roger Benson is Senior Director, Commercial Sales, EMEA at AMD.