Business, Graphics, Hardware

AMD?s new look


Yesterday, we attended the AMD Financial Analyst Day in Sunnyvale, California. AMD presented a new look – new executives, new approach, new logo, new technology.

Many of the executives who appeared on stage have a relatively short tenure with AMD. However, they bring extensive technology experience to the job, not to mention scholastic achievement. We wonder if this new team can mesh into, or create, a common, successful corporate culture.

Dirk Meyer, CEO, might be called a lifer, having been at AMD since 1995, in contrast to Thomas Seifert, CFO, who just joined the company in 2009. One product launch manager called Meyer "the bridge" between the old guard and the latest staff additions. He facilitates the mingling of AMD?s technical history with forward looking ideas. Meyer?s leadership qualities and pleasant personality were evident during the day, showing that Dirk is maturing from a black/white engineering personality, as described by his former colleague.

Meyer?s dual degrees in computer engineering and business administration led him to become a top microprocessor design innovator, and successful manager. At DEC [Digital Equipment Corporation], he was co-architect of the Alpha 21064 and 21264 microprocessors, before moving to AMD where Meyer was lead engineer of the AMD Athlon microprocessor. An interesting tidbit in yesterdays’ new cross-license deal between Intel and AMD is that AMD now has access to the very same Alpha 21064 and 21264 architectures that Intel acquired from the HP-Compaq garage sale – pitching Itanium and shutting Alpha, its more efficient and powerful competitor.

Nigel Dessau has 19 years of IBM under his belt, and worked on their corporate marketing team. Most recently, he was with Sun Microsystems, but joined AMD as senior vice president and chief marketing officer in Spring 2008. He oversees the company?s global marketing, brand and communications strategies.

Emilio Ghilardi, with a master?s degree in electronic engineering from Politechnico di Torino Italy, is Hewlett Packard alumni where he spent 25 years. His tenure there involved management positions in imaging and printing.

Ghilardi told us he used to be an AMD customer. One day Meyer said to him: "Quit complaining, change the game, join the team." So he now is AMD?s chief sales officer, managing customer relationships as seen through the perspective of global sales. He built his own team from both inside and outside AMD?s ranks, and sounds like he is on a roll – rolling out new products and invigorating AMD?s image.

When AMD acquired ATI, they also acquired Rick Bergman who now serves as senior VP and GM of AMD?s products group. He oversees AMD’s computing platforms, managing graphics and microprocessor product development. Holding dual degrees in electrical engineering and business administration, Bergman has been involved in many "firsts" – world’s first DirectX 9 [2002], DX10.1 [2007] and DX11 [2009] GPUs, Xbox 360 deal, Nintendo Wii deal, TeraFLOPS-class GPU, and beating the industry with world’s first on 55nm and 40nm process nodes [both times, ATI introduced a process node ahead of Intel].

Chekib Akrout has a challenging job, which he addresses with a doctorate in electronics and physics, and extensive experience in the industry. Akrout has been involved with networking multi-core and digital signal processing, embedded processor cores for SoC, and processors used in the Mac, the Nintendo Game Cube, and Xbox 360. The summary of his job description as corporate vice president of technology development, reads: "to develop innovative and breakthrough technologies for AMD?s next generation products and platforms." The details indicate a heavy assignment.

Thomas Seifert, chief financial officer, was the man of the hour at the AMD Financial Analysts Day. He joined AMD direct from an IPO with Qimonda AG. A business administration background with a master?s degree in mathematics and economics should help him reconstruct AMD?s financial picture.

A company is only as good as its people. From what we saw in the polished and professional presentations, AMD is on solid ground. Everyone?s spirits were high. Attitudes were positive. Enthusiasm for their products and the company?s future were evident.

Without products, a company is dead in the water. AMD is forging ahead with a lot on their plate. First, however, was an announcement of the new logo and customer messaging plan, VISION. Yes, we do argue that the font used in this brand is a rip-off nVidia’s NVISION logo. In any case, announcements were coupled with demos of how well AMD products show on computers from HP, Acer, Dell, Lenovo, and others. Samsung, Sun, IBM, and Toshiba are also customers of AMD.

ATI Eyefinity Effect - out-of-the-box experience for majority of existing games
ATI Eyefinity Effect – out-of-the-box experience for majority of existing games

AMD?s product line is expanding. ATI Radeon HD 5800 series and ATI Radeon HD 5700 series are the first to be fully compliant with Microsoft DirectX 11, a key API of the Windows 7 operating system, an accomplishment AMD was proudly touting. Gaming certainly benefits from AMD. A driving game, DiRT 2, showed the multi-display technology of ATI Eyefinity.

During the day, code names were tossed about like ping pong balls. "Bobcat" architecture, for notebook processing in ultrathin and netbook form factors, delivers low power, low cost, in a cloud optimized, sub one watt capable product. It does 90 percent in less than half the silicon area. And speaking of size, AMD designed a product specifically to fit into a chassis that Acer originally designed for their Ferrari thin book line.
Bobcat?s big brother "Bulldozer" has an x86 core for high performance and was designed from scratch with a new approach to multi-threaded computing performance. AMD combined two cores inside a single one and is looking to give you bragging rights when you open Windows Task Manager and see 16 "cores" if you opt for an octa-core Zambezi CPU or eight "cores" if you build a system with an Orochi processor. Its CPU is looking to link up with a GPU to give birth to a single chip Accelerated Processing Unit (APU) configuration. But more on that in a later article.

Rick Bergman talks about first Fusion APU - 1 billion transistors, 32nm process, Bobcat or Bulldozer CPU core and Northern Islands GPU core
Rick Bergman talks about first Fusion APU – 1 billion transistors, 32nm process, Bobcat or Bulldozer CPU core and Northern Islands GPU core

Fusion is both software and hardware; x86 core and GPU (graphic processing unit) roadmaps scale across its market segment. Graphics cards are code named Cedar [future ATI Radeon HD 5600 series], Hemlock [future ATI Radeon HD 5900 series], and Redwood [future ATI
Radeon HD 5300/5400]. Notebook platforms are given the names of rivers and the codenames AMD gave out were Danube, Sabine, Nile, and Brazos.

AMD's 2011 Desktop platform: Orochi 4-core, Zambezi 8-core CPUs, Northern Islands GPUs and new revision of Socket AM3 [AM3r2]
2011 Desktop platform: Orochi 4-core, Zambezi 8-core CPUs, Northern Islands GPUs and new revision of Socket AM3 [AM3r2]

Desktop platforms answer to the names of Leo, Dorado, and Lynx [constellations]. Next generation server platforms are known as Maranello and San Marino, names given by Ferrari-related locations. Server CPUs mentioned were Magny-Cours and Interlagos for Maranello platform, Lisbon and Valencia for San Marino platform and Adelaide blade server platform. Adelaide is also the first server platform name not tied to Ferrari locations, even though AMD has yet to use Varano, Mugello and Abu Dhabi/Yas Marina [location of the first Ferrari World theme park]. Each category of products are tiered to serve basic, medium, and high end users. Read more about them in upcoming articles.

Note: Theo Valich contributed to reporting.