AMD has seen a few serious setbacks lately, especially with their Barcelona server processor, but it seems as if the company is trying hard to get things back on track. The first step in solving an issue is acknowledging it exists in the first place, and AMD CEO Hector Ruiz did just that last December. “We blew it and we’re very humbled by it and we learned from it and we’re not going to do it again.” Reseller Advocate Magazine asks, are you ready to believe him?RAM interviewed several key people within AMD, trying to get the honest truth from them – not the rosy marketing blurbs. The company is in a vulnerable position; it went through a set of blunders, and, as RAM calls is, is ‘on probation’. The bridges between AMD and resellers have been blocked in 2007, and 2008 will tell us if those blocks are removed, or strengthened – or that the bridges will be blown up altogether.
The Barcelona mess-up was probably the most significant error that hurt AMD’s name and reputation. However, according to John Fruehe, worldwide business development manager for Opteron, the net effect in terms of marketshare loss or gain has been minimal.
We haven’t grown market share, but we also haven’t lost market share, and one would expect that if we were disadvantaged from a product perspective. There were two things that played into this. One was that our competitor’s product really wasn’t a great quad-core solution. It kicked out about 50% more heat and drew 50% more power than the duals and it didn’t scale very well. So it wasn’t a very viable solution for most customers. Customers saw that we were going to have a better platform and a better solution. You know, customers think about things in the long term. In the desktop world, the decisions are pretty short term when you’re revving your machine every year. But when you’re planning a data center with an architecture you expect to have for three to five years, you’re willing to wait a little longer to make the right choice. We started shipping Barcelona in March, but you probably won’t see parts on shelves until at least mid-April because we’re still so busy fulfilling all the backlogs from people who said they were willing to wait.
The bitter rivalry between the two biggest x86 chip manufacturers is still alive and kicking, and I must say that personally, I like the sharp tone. Concerning Intel’s quad-core Nehalem chips, Fruehe noted, bitingly:
I’m not really too concerned about AMD being “a generation behind” when Nehalem comes to market because, frankly, Nehalem is Opteron 1.0. Welcome to the game. You finally integrated your memory controller. You did the native quad-core. A glueless interconnect. We’ve done all that and have been for quite some time. We’re not concerned about the Nehalem hype our competitor is throwing out there. We know that doing native quad-core is not easy. We know that integrating a memory controller is not easy. They did it twice with Timna and Whitefield, and they had to kill both of those projects before they ever got to market. The proof is in the pudding.
A often-heard story among OEMs is that they choose to ship products with AMd chips in them not because AMD’s offerings are superior to Intel’s, but simply because AMD allows them to offer a choice in the first place. Gary Bixler, director of marketing for North America, is clear about this issue:
These guys are businesspeople. They’re pragmatists. They have a business to run and families to feed. We know for a fact that they value choice. Frankly, we see it as our responsibility to give them a choice that’s good enough for them to feel comfortable in making it with AMD. Now, two years ago, 18 months ago, our product lineup was such that the choice was dead obvious. We had clear superiority across server and desktop, and it was easy for them to choose AMD. Since then, we have not delivered on our road map the way we needed to on desktop and server. So it’s made it more difficult for them to choose AMD, and we’re the first to admit that. The good news is that we feel we’re absolutely through that. With Phenom and the Barcelona-based Opteron lines, we now are a viable choice across a very broad range thanks to things like price-performance advantages and a leading position on performance-per-watt.
The interviews are filled with detailed information and interesting quotes, so be sure to read them.