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Tying It All Together

Thanks to AMD at Work for this story

Fabric – noun; framework, structure. Everyone knows fabric when it comes to cloth, but when it comes to computing, not as many people understand the concepts of fabric computing.

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But AMD does. We understand it so much that today, we made a significant investment in fabric computing with the purchase of SeaMicro.  SeaMicro has been known in high-density computing circles as a company with a unique fabric solution that leverages industry standards to help tie multiple computers together into a fabric that helps drive down the cost of deploying, operating and expanding computing resources.

The basis of the SeaMicro technology is the interconnect fabric.  A custom ASIC allows multiple computers to be linked together via their PCI Express bus.  This fabric allows a large number of servers, to be tied together in a fabric within a dense chassis, all sharing a high-performance connection to networking and I/O peripherals.  Servers go from being a large box to a small card as they are aggregated into this environment.  Card-based servers are infinitely easier to deploy and manage because there are fewer discrete components and more sharing. The days of overprovisioning a rack of servers falls by the wayside, with a new paradigm that helps customers better utilize their data center space, power and resources.

So, what does this acquisition mean for AMD?  Clearly, we are moving from a being merely a silicon provider to delivering systems-level integration and capability.  When you look at the IP that AMD has at its disposal, large cores like “Bulldozer” and the upcoming “Piledriver”; smaller, energy efficient cores like “Bobcat” and the upcoming “Jaguar”; as well as leading GPU technology, it all means that we have the ability to build a variety of CPU and APU products that can be integrated into servers.  And the unique fabric solution from SeaMicro helps AMD tie all of these pieces together.

At the most recent AMD Financial Analyst Day, Mark Papermaster and Lisa Su both spoke of the new AMD direction towards SOCs (system on a chip) that will allow us to take a wide range of IP and integrate it into purpose-built SOCs that meet particular computing needs.  With SeaMicro we now have the fabric to pull all of these together as well. The SeaMicro IP that helps connect all of these computers together could one day be built directly into these SOCs, providing an easy way to tie systems together with the smallest silicon footprint possible. But not just AMD SOCs, the technology will be available for others as well.

Where will SeaMicro products make the most sense?  Eventually, one day, it is not out of the realm of possibility that everything in the data center is part of that type of fabric.  But that won’t happen on day one. Instead, we’ll see deployment of these products into the following areas:

  • Large “scale out” data centers – These data centers, often associated with Cloud or Web 2.0 companies is a natural place for these products.  That is why you already see SeaMicro with a footprint in this space today. These customers know the value of every single watt and see the tremendous potential of the SeaMicro fabric technology.
  • Space-constrained data centers – If you have ever spent time on Wall Street, you know that not only time is money, but that space is money as well.  Financial companies tend to be in the hearts of large cities and the cost of real estate means that every rack U matters.  The SeaMicro technology allows for a far denser deployment than blades, twins or other dense form factors can deliver.
  • “Physicalized” data centers – While virtualization is a key technology for helping data centers get better utilization of their IT assets, not every IT problem has a virtualization solution.  Sometimes “physicalization” is a better solution instead of virtualization.  Dense, interconnected systems, each holding its own system image, instead of sharing compute resources like virtualization, could be deployed to help drive down costs of computing, power and management.

And that is just the start.  Long term, today’s data center is a target-rich environment, with plenty of areas in the world of network infrastructure that could move to a fabric.  Fabrics allow all of the server cards to access shared I/O and networking peripherals, delivering up to 10Gb/s capabilities to each server, and provide a scalable uplink into the core routers. Just the reduction in cabling alone, (installing it, managing it, and having it block airflow) makes these fabric solutions appealing for customers.  Think about the miles of cable in your data center that could be eliminated if that connectivity between a larger number of servers happened inside the box instead of at the rack level.

Does this mean that AMD is heading into the systems business?  Not at all.  We have partners like HP, Dell, IBM, Cray and a host of others that design and deliver systems better than anyone, so we’ll really leave that business to them.  We’ll maintain the SeaMicro business and current customers to ensure that we continue to deliver the products that they need to run their business. But the long term the goal is to broaden the offering by also integrating the technology into platforms from our OEMs, creating a larger ecosystem of products for customers to choose from.

The acquisition is actually the beginning of the hard work, not the end. Now that we have the SeaMicro technology in our portfolio, it is time to look at all of the products on the roadmap and figure out where the intersection of the two roadmaps will occur. Stay tuned for more to come on this front as this is clearly an exciting time for AMD and the entire server industry.

John Fruehe is the Director of Product Marketing for Server, Embedded and FireStream products at AMD. His postings are his own opinions and may not represent AMD’s positions, strategies or opinions. Links to third party sites, and references to third party trademarks, are provided for convenience and illustrative purposes only.  Unless explicitly stated, AMD is not responsible for the contents of such links, and no third party endorsement of AMD or any of its products is implied.

CAUTIONARY STATEMENT
This blog contains forward-looking statements, concerning among other things, AMD’s strategic initiatives and growth opportunities; the anticipated benefits from AMD’s acquisition of SeaMicro and AMD’s server strategy; planned products; industry trends; and AMD’s earnings for fiscal year 2012, which are made pursuant to the safe harbor provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act. Forward-looking statements are commonly identified by words such as “would,” “may,” “expects,” “believes,” “plans,” “intends,” “projects,” and other terms with similar meaning. Investors are cautioned that the forward-looking statements in this release are based on current beliefs, assumptions and expectations, speak only as of the date of this release and involve risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from current expectations. Material factors and assumptions that were applied in making these forward looking statements include, without limitation, AMD’s current expectations regarding GLOBALFOUNDRIES manufacturing yields and wafer volumes and demand for its products.  Risks include the possibility that Intel Corporation’s pricing, marketing and rebating programs, product bundling, standard setting, new product introductions or other activities targeting the company’s business may negatively impact the company’s plans; the company will be unable to develop, launch and ramp new products and technologies in the volumes required by the market and at mature yields on a timely basis; that the company’s third party wafer foundry suppliers will be unable to transition the company’s products to advanced manufacturing process technologies in a timely and effective way or to manufacture the company’s products on a timely basis in sufficient quantities and using competitive technologies; the company will be unable to obtain sufficient manufacturing capacity or components to meet demand for its products or will not fully utilize the company’s  projected manufacturing capacity needs at GLOBALFOUNDRIES’ microprocessor manufacturing facilities in 2012 and beyond; that customers stop buying the company’s products or materially reduce their operations or demand for the company’s products; that the company may be unable to maintain the level of investment in research and development that is required to remain competitive; that there may be unexpected variations in market growth and demand for the company’s products and technologies in light of the product mix that it may have available at any particular time or a decline in demand; that the company will require additional funding and may be unable to raise sufficient capital on favorable terms, or at all; that global business and economic conditions will not improve or will worsen; demand for computers will be lower than currently expected; and the effect of political or economic instability, domestically or internationally, on the company’s sales or supply chain.  Investors are urged to review in detail the risks and uncertainties in the company’s Securities and Exchange Commission filings, including but not limited to the Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2011.

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