Desktop to data centre

This month AMD is going to reveal to global analysts its plans to 'change the face' of the commercial desktop. Colin Edwards got the news before them in an exclusive interview with Henri Richard, AMD's executive vice president in Dubai.

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By  Colin Edwards Published  June 1, 2006

|~|henri200.jpg|~|Richard: AMD's Middle East strategy is to make up for lost time.|~|Within six months, processor vendor AMD is planning an assault on the enterprise desktop with a number of thin client-type products that Henri Richard, vice president and chief sales and marketing officer, AMD, says will establish the company as a desktop-to-data centre player.

“We believe that the era of the standard rectangular fat client is over and there are ways to reinvent the commercial client that provide both better value and ergonomics. We're talking innovative thin clients and variations of that such as server-based client computing.

“To a degree we have a small market share in the commercial client space so it is to our interest and advantage to challenge the status quo and we intend to do that with a series of initiatives that will really present, for the first time in a long time, the commercial decision maker with a series of new solutions to address their needs,” he says.

AMD plans to give analysts details of the rollout this month, but Richard says not to expect the first product before Q4.

Apart from the enterprise desktop, AMD is also planning to leverage its growing Opteron-based server market to secure a greater foothold in the enterprise data centre believing it has a more compelling right to be supporting core applications than Intel's Itanium offerings.

“We're really focusing on the data centre with our new technology and what is planned for release this summer,” he says, pointing out that the three-year old Opteron's move to the data centre had been via high performance computing (HPC).

“In fairness, the first nine to 12 months of Opteron's life was really in the HPC space. Then our partners progressively offered a lot of different configurations perfectly adapted to data centre type implementation. Today, Opteron operates far beyond the HPC space and is making very rapid inroads into traditional data set computing such as SAP, Oracle and so forth.”

He believes those inroads will intensify with the latest Opteron which partners are expected to include in new platforms due for rollout this month and next.

“For the first time you will see certain variations and configurations available on the Opteron for true data centre application that will not be available on our competition's systems. So in certain workload and certain data centres, our partners will offer strictly Opteron-based solutions. Why? It's the best product for that particular application.

“This is really telling in terms of the progress we've made. When large partners start to make a configuration strictly based on our product because we have so much differentiation and advantage over the competition, I call that success from a data centre perspective.”

Despite Intel's continuing commitment and investments in Itanium as the core processor for the data centre, Richard is confident that Opteron will win the data centre battle because of the lead it is building in terms of scalability and multi-core technologies and Intel's problem in unifying its Itanium and Xeon ranges.

“This is proving very challenging technically, maybe even impossible. I would say it's not necessary because Itanium is a thing of the past. My forecast is simple: to keep up with Opteron, our competitor is going to have to make better and better Xeons. To a great degree, Xeon is going to get better than Itanium very quickly. Under that scenario I don't know why any faithful customer would buy an Itanium. To keep up with us they have to have a better x86 product,” he says.

Next year, AMD will be offering users the ability to take its quad core architecture and easily and 'gluelessly' put it in an 8-way system thereby creating a powerful, power-efficient 32 cores, 8-way system.

“Clearly we are taking the x86 architecture into mainframe territory. Of course a mainframe is much more than computing power. There are issues such as I/Os, security, and reliability. We are building a lot of future Opteron enhancements around RAS reliability, availability and security. The pure high-end proprietary mainframe architectures that are today still available from various vendors are going to be slowly, but surely, pushed to a very small sliver at the very high end of computing needs. We are very excited about how we can make the x86 completely pervasive throughout the data centre for pretty much any type of workload that anyone will want to run.”

Virtualisation is also part of this summer's processor revision and seen as furthering AMD's effort to optimise power usage in the data centre as virtualisation improves server utilisation. AMD's processor will deliver enhanced performance a virtualised environment, he says.

The company is also working on expanding the Power Now functionality built into the Opteron processor. Taking a leaf out of Sun's power saving book with its multi core processors, Richard says that as the technology gets more sophisticated AMD's multi-core processors will also reach a point where the system will dynamically turn off a core or more as required.

Its power strategy is seen as a key differentiator in the market, though Intel is also addressing the problem of excess heat being generated in the data centre. “We have led the industry down the path of innovation because we recognised that performance per watt was going to be a critical dimension of success,” he says.

As for its Middle East strategy, Richard admits it came late to the market, but intends to step up its operations with new resources being allocated to its Dubai regional headquarters and new operations planned for Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

“This is a very interesting market for us because we have a low market share in relation to other parts of the world. The reason for our current position is that we did not invest as early as we should have.

“I chose Dubai for our worldwide distribution conference (April 2006) not just because it's a great place; it also gave me an opportunity to bring senior executives from AMD and our major partners and put the importance of this particular market under the spotlight.

“It's part of my strategy to accelerate our investment here. I've taken it as a personal challenge that we catch up and regain some of the lost time,” he concludes.||**||

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