by Anton Shilov
11/28/2010 | 02:50 PM
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:
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.