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Although ATI graphics business division of Advanced Micro Devices competes against rival Nvidia Corp. pretty successfully on the market of professional graphics cards, AMD seems to be completely not interested in the market of central processing units (CPUs) for workstations. According to market tracking firm Jon Peddie Research, 99.9% microprocessors for workstations in Q3 2010 were supplied by Intel Corp.

"AMD maintains a presence as a supplier to the workstation industry, plying its professional-brand FirePro GPUs, but as far as we can tell the company has thrown in the towel when it comes to selling its CPUs into the same space," said Alex Herrera, senior analyst at Jon Peddie Research.

Working hard to increase its foothold in a market dominated by rival Nvidia, AMD’s not giving up on the battle for professional graphics hardware dollars. With its recent top-to-bottom Evergreen overhaul of FirePro GPUs, the company knows it has got a competitive line and is looking to capitalize on it, according to the analyst with JPR. If it cannot necessarily overthrow Nvidia, AMD intends to hang onto the 13%  market share it has, and maybe gain a few points (and some healthy margins) here or there. But the opposite appears to be the case for CPUs, where the company has now completely relinquished its hard-won market share back to Intel. AMD appears completely apathetic about the fortunes or value of entrenching Opteron or Phenom in this vibrant, performance-sensitive corner of the PC market.

"AMD hasn’t really been engaged in the workstation market for some time, sitting back to watch Opteron’s penetration in workstations drop from a peak of 3.6% of the worldwide market in Q2 2006 (and a more impressive 9.9% of dual-socket workstations) down to 0.1% in Q3 2010. And with the last major holdout HP quietly discontinuing its two Opteron models recently, AMD’s share of the CPUs shipping in workstation will for all intents and purposes drop to zero," said Mr. Herrera.

The analyst sees two reasons why CPUs from AMD have disappeared from workstations:

  • The company needs to pick its battles carefully, and it does not see workstations as a priority.
  • Today’s business unit structure at AMD does not appear to lend itself to serving the workstation market effectively. Unlike Intel, AMD lacks the wherewithal to compete full bore in every segment, so it needs to choose its battles judiciously.

Mr. Herrera believes that AMD is organizationally more interested in selling server microprocessors than selling workstation chips. This tactics can be explained easily: server applications require higher number of cores, something that AMD can easily offer with its twelve-core multi-chip modules; workstation programs benefit from high clock-speeds and this is not something AMD's multi-core CPUs can offer.

"Workstations look to be the ugly step-child, with servers grabbing all the attention. The two platforms share a similar architecture and system components in dual-socket (2S) configurations, but where 2S platforms represent the bulk of server volume, they represent a relatively small share (around 20%) of workstations, making them less interesting to server management. Similarly, the prospect of building a single-socket mobile or entry desktop - where the majority of the volume is - isn’t likely attractive to the client side of the business, since the volumes pale in comparison to PCs," claims Mr. Herrera.

It should be noted that the  workstation volumes are not up to the level of mainstream PC or servers. Around 3.3 million workstations representing $8.2 billion (system revenue) are sold yearly. Furthermore, the margins are far superior to mainstream PCs, and with the commonality that can be leveraged from both of the other two platforms, the engineering costs are quite modest.

"Ironically, AMD itself sees the value of the workstation market. Otherwise, why would it continue to push FirePro graphics? Predominantly represented by OEMs, the TAM for FirePro is tied almost 1:1 with workstation volume. So if the volume for workstations is too low for AMD CPUs to bother, why is it enough for AMD GPUs to care," asks the analyst.

Tags: , Intel, AMD, Business, JPR


Comments currently: 5
Discussion started: 11/29/10 08:16:55 AM
Latest comment: 11/29/10 02:10:01 PM
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CPUs are history, they are obsoleted. APU (Accelerated Processing Units) will be replacing all CPUs/GPUs beginning next year.

They will run at a fraction of the power needed by the old CPU/GPU technology and with a much smaller footprint since you will not need GPUs for many of the systems.Next year AMD and Intel will be releasing the first generation of APU's.

AMD is frog leaping Intel since they have higher GPU technology than Intel and AMD will be supporting OpenCL.CPU's are no match to the APU's and AMD has no reason to invest in old technology when it can invest in the new generation of APU's .AMD having higher performance APU's and being more advanced in the APU technology than Intel, it will capture a greater piece of the market beginning next year.

Once these APU's enter the server market, they will disrupt it since current server technology could not accomadate GPU technology and now with the GPU built inside the silicon chip with the CPU, it will be capable to deliver great graphics, vector computation, and software performance with a fraction of the power envelop compared to the CPU and GPU power needs.Intel failed with Larrabee for a reason, which is, they don't really have high end mature GPU technology, and this fact is, and will be, affecting their Sandy Bridge APU technology.

Next year it will be very interesting to see how much market share AMD will take from Intel since AMD has superior APU technology.
0 0 [Posted by: xbitc  | Date: 11/29/10 08:16:55 AM]

You are so wrong. You will see. Even if programmers will fall in love with CUDA/OpenCL/whatever (which is also debatable), it will take decades for such apu-powered apps to populate the market. cheers.
0 0 [Posted by:  | Date: 11/29/10 12:08:37 PM]
- collapse thread


All the hardware and software infrastructure for the first gen APU's are already being tested/produced as we speak.

Apple, Microsoft, AMD, Intel, NVIDIA, etc. all are part of the OpenCL consortium. Apple being one of the most advanced software companies have been pushing OpenCL which are ideal for high performance APU processing.

In addition, Apple, Microsoft, and other Software and hardware companies are already testing/using OpenCL earlier versions.

In a simple/basic explanation, the only main difference will be that the CPU and GPU calls, that all applications use, will be executed inside the APU instead of being sent to the CPU or to the GPU. APU's, in addition, will no longer need to have individual memory since they will share the main computer memory.

Later, there will be enhancements to the APU instruction sets so to unleash the real performance of the native APU's.

This is not the future, the APU based hardware is already being designed and built, and it will be available beginning of next year. Most of the high performance software packages and OS's will already run or will be updated to take advantage of the direct APU OpenCL computational and GPU capabilities found in the same silicon chip.

If you are an investor, you should get educated in what is happening in the next five years because it will change the computer investment/value CPU/GPU company landscape depending what companies are successful in the APU technology.

As an immediate example of the power of the APU's. China now posseses the most powerful supercomputer in the world. This was thanks to NVIDIA GPU's and Intel CPU's. You can now just imagine the APU's native supercomputer power that will be available now that the APU does not need to talk through the slow PCI-E bus, to other components, and does not need to copy memory from the custom GPU memory banks to the computers memory banks for processing..
CPU's can't do efficient vector processing, which is why by combining it with the NVIDIA GPU's, it created the fastest supercomputer this year. Next generations of supercomputers will use APU's and will make all current supercomputers obsoleted.


0 0 [Posted by: xbitc  | Date: 11/29/10 01:25:58 PM]

0 1 [Posted by: bereft  | Date: 11/29/10 12:17:53 PM]

I honestly don't see how a Phenom II X6 wouldn't be a dandy CPU for a workstation... especially if the programs are properly set up for multiple cores...

But, I never understood this Xeon/Opteron business...
0 0 [Posted by: lh3nry  | Date: 11/29/10 02:10:01 PM]


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