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AMD's new CEO likes basketball and the chip maker's future

Patrick Thibodeau | March 23, 2012
Since being hired last August, Rory Read, Advanced Micro Devices CEO, has been reshaping the company.

Read's hiring of technology executives with IBM in their resume is something Charles King, an analyst at Pund-IT, took note of at AMD's recent analyst meeting.

IBM "has pursued a level of excellence that unfortunately has been lacking at AMD over the last few years," King said. "If we're talking about thoroughbreds, these executives all have the right bloodlines," he said, of Read's management choices.

Recent key hires with IBM experience on their resumes include Lisa Su, senior vice president and general manager for AMD's global business unit, who joined AMD in January. Prior to taking that job, she was a senior vice president and general manager at Freescale Semiconductor. Before Freescale, Su worked for 13 years at IBM.

Another IBM veteran, is Mark Papermaster, who joined AMD last October. He also worked at Apple and Cisco .

A third top hire is Rajan Naik as senior vice president and chief strategy officer. Naik spent 11 years at consulting firm McKinsey, and before that as a senior engineer at Intel.

Read sees three big trends, consumerization, cloud and convergence, driving the market. The later trend, convergence, is about how data and applications will flow across all devices, which "will break down this idea that there is only a single operating system, or a single solution," he said.

Consumerization will deliver "the next billion or two billion customers coming from emerging markets," Read said. "They're going to buy at entry and mainstream price points, where we play very strong," he said.

Cloud computing is changing both the data center and the client. Users want clients that can work with low bandwidth and still deliver a great experience, Read said. That involves building chips that combine the CPU and GPU technology, or what is called an Accelerated Processing Unit (APU), which includes AMD's Brazos, low-powered chip. AMD has sold about 30 million of those chips.

"It's the most successful platform we've ever had," Read said.

The SeaMicro acquisition gives AMD access to a relatively new approach to server design that use lower power chips in a dense design on small motherboards and optimized for specific workloads, such as multimedia and search. The company, founded in 2007, received a $9.3 million grant in 2009 from the U.S. Deptartment of Energy to help in its development of low-power systems.

Read believes demand for SeaMicro's technology will grow with the cloud, and its design will be able to support any number of compute core types made by AMD and others, such as ARM. Read is careful to point out that he's not saying ARM will be in the mix.

Less than a decade ago, AMD rocked the server market with its release of the Opteron processor. This was the first 64-bit x86-chip, which had been previously limited to 32-bit processors. It forced Intel to respond with its own 64-bit chip.


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