AMD's EPYC processors made their first halting steps into the server and supercomputer world last year with a limited debut at Supercomputer 2017. What a difference a year makes. We found more AMD EPYC systems at Supercomputer 2018 than we expected, and most importantly, those systems come from some of the biggest names in the server and supercomputer space.
The innovative EPYC design features a multi-chip implementation that keeps costs in check, providing AMD with firm footing against Intel in the pricing war. But the x86 instruction set is an even larger draw for potential customers. AMD's customers, both large and small, can execute the same x86 code on EPYC servers as they run on Intel's kit, albeit after the requisite qualification cycles. In either case, x86 applications comprise roughly 95% of the data center, as evidenced by Intel's dominating market share. That works to AMD's advantage and keeps other promising ARM-based competitors on the sidelines.
The battle lines are drawn for x86 dominance, which must be concerning for Intel as it grapples with an ongoing shortage and its perennially-delayed 10nm process. Especially as AMD readies its 7nm EPYC Rome processors for launch next year. But EPYC's value proposition stretches beyond price and the advantages of the x86 instruction set. Hefty memory capacity, throughput, and a generous slathering of PCIe lanes make these processors well-suited for many key segments of both the server and supercomputer world. Let's take a look.