Analysis: AMD's Comeback Plan Needs More Than ARM


Ten years ago, AMD made history with the introduction of its 64-bit Opteron processors, which put the underdog chip maker back on the map and looked to usher in a new era for the CPU industry. But, unfortunately, a lot has changed in 10 years.

Over the last decade, AMD has watched the capital it earned with its 64-bit innovation erode along with its market share and revenue. The company fell behind Intel once again, suffering notable setbacks including the devastating bug in AMD's "Barcelona" quad-core Opteron server chip in 2007. As a result, AMD's stock price plummeted and its market cap shrunk.

While both Intel and AMD have struggled to adapt to the decline of the traditional PC and the rise of mobile devices, AMD has lagged further behind its larger rival, despite the introduction of its accelerated processing unit (APU) architecture. Meanwhile, AMD has struggled to reduce its losses and maintain profitability.

 

[Related: AMD Launches Low-Power Opteron Server Chips To Take On Intel's Atom]

But all is not lost for AMD. After a long, steady decline, the company's stock price is starting to trend upward (currently sitting at just over $4 a share, almost double the company's low point this year). While much of that boost initially came from AMD's lucrative deals to supply GPUs in the next-generation video game consoles, the chip maker has sustained that momentum with some notable new products.

And none are more notable than AMD's first ARM server chip, code-named "Seattle."

Last October, AMD joined forces with ARM Holdings to build new energy-efficient server chips for the data center based on ARM's low-power architecture. For AMD, it was a risky but ultimately inevitable move; while AMD competes against ARM in the tablet market, ARM represents a much bigger competitive threat to Intel -- as well as AMD's best chance to get back into the data center.

"It's not about altruism. It's good business," Andrew Feldman, vice president and general manager of AMD's Server Business Unit, told CRN. "ARM processors save you space and power costs to go with high-density clusters that are more energy-efficient."

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