AMD reacted to Intel's announcement of its Atom S microserver processor today with a rather interesting email that was sent out to media.
" In a radical about face, Intel tomorrow is planning to announce a new Atom-based processor for micro servers. Intel is finally acknowledging the micro server party, although we do wonder if it’s 'too little, too late?' In a veiled attempt to rewrite history, last week Intel drug a fairly unknown engineer out of its labs to talk about its “history” in micro server development. But don’t let this fool you. Intel’s 'history' with micro servers has been very short.
A few points to keep in mind while participating in the press conference and writing your stories tomorrow:
- The original SeaMicro SM10000 server used Intel’s Atom processor, but Intel was not supportive of this. For years, the company fought SeaMicro on their choice of processor.
- Almost two years ago, Intel had a 64-bit, dual-core Atom processor part made for SeaMicro, but this processor was not promoted by Intel.
- Intel has insisted for years that micro servers not be more than 10 percent of the market. Are they back-peddling?
Intel is way behind on small cores. They have no cell phone market share, little tablet market share, and now they are threatened that they will lose server market share. AMD and its SeaMicro technology are leading the charge in micro server technology and development. We recently announced a technology partnership with ARM and plans to roll out micro servers using ARM technology. It’s understandable that Intel is threatened, but we would like to make sure that everyone has the facts straight.
Andrew Feldman, former SeaMicro CEO and now AMD’s GM of its Data Center Server Solutions group will be available to speak to you about Intel’s announcement. Please let me know if you are interested in a short 10-15 minute call with Andrew tomorrow, Tuesday, 12/11 between 10 am and noon Pacific for his comments."
In AMD's defense, such emails that preempt major product launches of its rival are considered a tradition and I can remember receiving such notifications for the better half of the past two decades. It is also important to understand that AMD's SeaMicro unit is probably the most passionate and nimble unit inside AMD these days, and received significant attention when AMD CEO Rory Read said that microservers would be one of the key pillars of AMD's restructured business in 2013 and beyond.
However, I am wondering if AMD can retain the enthusiasm for its brand and maintain credibility when it makes statements that could be interpreted as blatantly false?
It is surprising that AMD would call Intel's micro server processor, a 64-bit variant of its Atom chip "too little, too late," when AMD does not have a comparable processor at this time itself. SeaMicro GM Andrew Feldman has been very vocal about the fact that Intel did not exactly support him in using Atom processors for his servers, but it is a fact that AMD has bought itself (probably too late) into the ARM market and will not have commercial ARM 64-bit processors in volume shipments available prior to the end of next year.
Of course, it is silly to ridicule Intel for having little to no market share in smartphones and tablets. How much market share does AMD have? Does it make sense to accuse Intel of being behind on small cores? Intel surely has to prove that it can trump ARM architecture in ultra-compact devices, but AMD is the wrong company to make that accusation, as it has little to show for in these markets. And let's not forget that it was this kind of attitude that sent the company near bankruptcy back in 2006/2007. If you provoke Intel, you better have the technology to back it up.
Another interesting note could be the 10 percent claim: Intel recently confirmed to me that this claim has not changed and they still do not know whether the market can exceed 5 or 10 percent of the entire server market. However, Intel is very protective of its server revenue and their approach is to compete just in case the market develops. From Intel's perspective, it would be foolish not to react to a market trend that affects one of its key businesses and it would be foolish from a competitor's point of view to expect Intel wouldn't protect its business. ARM and Intel, by the way, are very cautious of each other, as aggressive as they may seem in the public: Intel knows very well that ARM has the lead and experience in low power consumption in dense environments, while ARM knows that Intel has the lead in performance.
AMD's SeaMicro unit has a one huge advantage in this market, which is surprisingly left out of AMD's media alert. Micro servers are not just about micro processors - it is about the fabric that enables ultra-dense servers and high-speed connectivity that scales to potentially thousands and tens of thousands of cores in data centers that are targeted at cloud applications. AMD has this fabric, including super-compact motherboards, and it is patented. Integration is the space Intel has to catch up on, not architecture.