Taking a direct shot at Intel's current dominance in the server market, AMD plans to acquire the leading microserver startup, SeaMicro, for $334 million. SeaMicro, who has been Intel's high-profile example of how to build massively dense servers using low-power Atom CPUs (and, most recently, the low power version of the Xeon server CPU), has also been the flagship user of x86 (and x64) architecture processors in a market that was originally thought to be ARM's entry into the datacenter.
It's likely that this acquisition is not strictly about AMD making a server play against Intel, but more of a technology acquisition for AMD. The interconnect technology, which allows the SeaMicro servers to reach their density levels and provide the supercomputer-like fabric for both low power and high performance computing (depending upon the type of CPUs involved), is bound to interest AMD in getting a broader audience for their CPUs. SeaMicro has always stated that their fabric supports multiple different CPU instruction sets, opening up the possibility that AMD will have in place the technology to deliver these massively dense servers in the CPU flavor (x86 or ARM) that the customer chooses.
The SeaMicro business could also give AMD an instant customer for custom system-on-chip implementations (SOC) allowing AMD to build up real-world experience on building very dense SOC datacenter servers, a testing ground for their SOC ambitions that could expand across the customer market, from the datacenter all the way down to high-volume embedded devices, such as mobile, where AMD is currently little represented.
When SeaMicro announced their Xeon-based SM10000-XE server last month, Intel was right there with them, agreeing with the claim that servers like this could quickly capture as much as 10% of the entire server market. With the SeaMicro headstart, AMD has a shot at acquiring the lion's share of that growth.