By Therese Poletti, MarketWatch
AMD server event, usually a recipe for boredom, cooks up some excitement as executives exude confidence in fight against Intel for data-center market share
Advanced Micro Devices Inc. hosted an event in San Francisco on Election Day that was more political rally than product update, with such an upbeat and confident feel that Lisa Su could have emerged wearing a red "Make AMD Great Again" hat.
Su, AMD's (AMD) chief executive, and her fellow normally subdued engineers were ebullient on stage, as if they were about to lead a cheer. Su said AMD was excited to be hosting the event, dubbed Next Horizon, to talk about its next-generation chips, the second designed around the Zen architecture that has led AMD back to profitability, market-share gains and regained respect in the industry.
"We are still at the beginning of that journey," Su said, one of the themes of the day as executives frequently reiterated that the company's current resurgence had staying power, unlike the company's past boom-to-bust cycles (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/amds-turnaround-hits-a-snag-repelling-investors-2014-07-22). After a few other executive presentations, Su came back on stage later with even more enthusiasm to hold up AMD's next chip for servers to a cheering crowd.
The second-generation Epyc chip for servers, dubbed Rome, is still set for launch sometime in 2019, based on manufacturing technology that is ahead of Intel Corp.(INTC). AMD did not give any further updates on its launch date, but it ran a demonstration that showed Rome is two times faster that the current-generation chip, called Naples. AMD's chip also completed its demo faster than two current Intel server chips.
Previously: Why AMD believes it can challenge Intel in servers (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/why-amd-believes-it-can-challenge-intel-in-servers-2018-09-28)
"I've been in the semi industry a long, long time, and you don't get two-times performance [improvements]," Su crowed, adding "We are incredibly ambitious. We are not talking about being a niche player or a second source."
"AMD is really feeling its oats," summed up Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, on the sidelines of the event.
Chief Technology Officer Mark Papermaster said in a brief interview after the event wrapped up that AMD has been faced with two questions in past few years: "Can AMD come back?" and "Will AMD have staying power?"
"That's what it takes in the server/enterprise market to have generation after generation," he said. "We have been incredibly focused on execution. We are the trusted supplier that we said we would be."
Papermaster, who joined AMD in 2011, has played a big role in its turnaround, re-engineering AMD's engineering processes that led to the development of the Zen architecture. That led to news like a partnership with Amazon.com Inc.'s (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/amd-stock-jumps-as-amazon-starts-using-epyc-chips-in-the-cloud-2018-11-06)(AMZN) Amazon Web Services that helped push AMD stock to big gains on the day.
Don't miss: AMD stock jumps as Amazon starts using Epyc chips in the cloud (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/amd-stock-jumps-as-amazon-starts-using-epyc-chips-in-the-cloud-2018-11-06)
So far, AMD's turnaround has ridden mostly on its gains from new PC chips called Ryzen, and an unexpected boom with its graphics chips used in cryptocurrency mining. The server market has been slower to take off, but has more potential to affect profit and revenue, since AMD had declined to virtually nothing in the data-center market.
"The reality is that AMD was out of the game for so long it took a while for them to get trust and attention," said Pat Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights and a former AMD executive. "AMD is not a one-hit wonder with Epyc."
Moorhead expects that systems with the second version of Epyc will come out sometime in mid-2019, adding that the data-center market takes a long time to test and adopt new technologies.
"In data center, people don't count your first product," Moorhead said.
AMD has made it through the first product, and it has turned its stock into one of the stars in the semiconductor sector. That rise is based on hope that it will make a dent against Intel in the huge market for data-center chips, and AMD seems very confident that it will win that fight this time.
-Therese Poletti; 415-439-6400; AskNewswires@dowjones.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
November 11, 2018 13:18 ET (18:18 GMT)
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