If HP/ARM rumors are true, AMD might be the big loser

If HP/ARM rumors are true, AMD might be the big loser

Summary: AMD is getting pressed from all sides of their business model, and it looks like it's going to get worse.

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With the rumor mill expecting Calxeda's announcement on November 1 to be that HP will be utilizing their ARM-based server technology to deliver highly energy efficient servers suitable for web serving and similar tasks, most punditry has expressed the opinion that this is a shot across Intel's bow. But if you take a step back you will realize that AMD, who has always positioned their server products as less expensive and more energy efficient, while delivering almost as much performance as Intel, is stuck squarely in the middle of this potential fight.

While the majority of server vendors, including HP, offer AMD alternatives in many of their platforms, there is no question that Intel is the dominant CPU provider to the server market, with studies showing their market share at as much as 90% of all servers. AMD is fighting for as much of that remaining 10% as they can, plus whatever they can pull away from customers who are considering Intel alteratives.

AMDs best chance in this fight is that the software ecosystem for ARM ion servers is still in it's infancy, and, at this point, that ARM server technologies have been strictly running flavors of Linux, so the AMD server customer who runs Windows Server isn't threatened.  But this is likely a temporary situation that will only get worse for AMD as the ARM server market begins to mature.

ARM isn't only threatening AMD's potential server sales. At the other end of the spectrum, the dominance of ARM processors in the mobile market is going to start eroding the low-end notebook market where AMD has such a significant presence. As tablets become more capable, it won't just be netbooks that lose out but more traditional notebooks as well, and the commodity style notebooks, where AMD CPUs are the value leader, being the products most threatened. This will become even more so when Windows 8 Metro applications begin shipping in volume and tablets running that flavor of Windows and Metro on ARM become commonplace.

In the datacenter server, performance and capability is king, and Intel is firmly enthroned and continues to improve their products. While there is a threat from other server technologies in the datacenter, Intel isn't the most vulnerable player in the CPU market to technologies focused on power/performance/value efficiencies

Topics: Hewlett-Packard, Hardware, Intel, Processors, Servers

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16 comments
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  • You're missing some facts

    ARM is just getting 64-bit technology on the roll. It's not even close to being implemented because they only JUST announced availability of 64-bit technologies in ARMv8, which could be 2-3 years away before you see it in any chip. Cortex-A15 plans, while still 32-bit, isn't going to be ready until at least next year.

    Also, you forget about AMD's partnership with ARM. AMD sees a future in RISC for general computing, and they are already working with ARM to build prototype AMD APU's with their Radeon DX11+ GPU cores with ARM CPU cores, much like what NVIDIA is doing with Tegra. HP, being the biggest PC maker, has a long track record of using both Intel and AMD processors in systems from desktop to server. AMD's involvement with ARM can only deepen that relationship.
    Joe_Raby
    • RE: If HP/ARM rumors are true, AMD might be the big loser

      @Joe_Raby The problem with tech writers is that they tend to be idealists, thinking only in terms of black and white, and never taking into account the real world. You can see this all over the place - not just in microprocessors, but also in cloud computing and virtualization and other things.

      They tend to think in terms of ideals. They tend to think patterns like Moore's law are irresistible (despite evidence to the contrary). They like to use hyperbole a lot to get emotions riled up and get more attention. They miss important facts all over the place.

      Frankly, ZDNet is trolling for attention. I'm about ready to see if I can close my Talkback account and forget about them. I admit I'm probably addicted to these Talkbacks, but the truth is that's all it really is anymore - an addiction. Not something that helps me or anybody else in the long run. ZDNet's quality is just not there anymore. I should probably stop using them as a source of news.
      CobraA1
  • RE: If HP/ARM rumors are true, AMD might be the big loser

    I wondered if the author is holding any short position in AMD stock?
    techblog2011
  • RE: If HP/ARM rumors are true, AMD might be the big loser

    The key part of this is in the part where you said [i]"But if you take a step back you will realize that AMD, who has always positioned there server products as less expensive and more energy efficient, [b]while delivering almost as much performance as Intel[/b], is stuck squarely in the middle of this potential fight.[/i]

    Unless ARM does something different their processors have always been much less when it comes to terms of performance. It will be like the Intel Atom Processor. Great in energy consumption but terrible in performance and recommended for light use only.
    bobiroc
    • RE: If HP/ARM rumors are true, AMD might be the big loser

      @bobiroc Where arm excels is in low power usage. The technology mentioned in this article is a 20 watt tdp card with 4 quad core 1-1.2ghz chips on it. 4xquad core arm chips allow for running 20 OS instances in only 100 watts tdp.
      jaredrbyer
  • RE: If HP/ARM rumors are true, AMD might be the big loser

    Regardless, when I build a server, it gets an Opty CPU or it gets nothing!
    Bates_
  • RE: If HP/ARM rumors are true, AMD might be the big loser

    There is no comparison between AMD and ARM processors. For starters, AMD processors are x86/x64 compatible, ARM processors are not.

    Besides, AMD processors have always outperformed Intel processors -- you just need sufficiently advanced software. It is not just about power consumption. How many are the supercomputers built with Intel processors, btw?
    danbi
    • RE: If HP/ARM rumors are true, AMD might be the big loser

      @danbi
      This is very true, but not well known common knowledge, average John and Jane Doe are headline readers and never investigate anything for themselves. They could care less about raw data processing comparisons or benchmarks, and have no idea about Intel's permissible limits of variation, their standard deviation of overclocked and "Turbo-ed" ratings, all they care about is "are the numbers larger than the last one we bought" and " can the kids play games on it" I have submitted some polls that show 83% don't know what their front side bus is, or that it was the same in their last 3 computers that they were just sure were oodles, and oodles faster...
      Showboat911
    • They've always been my preference.

      @danbi

      Back to the days of my first system with their K6 chip, I've found AMD's products to a) provide near-identical performance for a lower price, or b) when AMD's chips underperformed compared to the Intel chips, the price difference was still large enough to give the AMD chips more "bang for the buck".
      spdragoo@...
  • RE: If HP/ARM rumors are true, AMD might be the big loser

    No, the problem with tech writers is that they accept payola (especially on this site) to write whatever their corporate overlords want them to... while trying to sell us on the idea that it is their own personal opinion.

    I, for one, see right through this. A shill is a shill is a shill, and this is a shill.
    thombone
    • RE: If HP/ARM rumors are true, AMD might be the big loser

      @thombone You're demonstrating the black and white, non-real world thinking tech writers are being accused of. Journalists can't accept money from people they write about without full disclosure. Period. What you're accusing this author of is a professional violation that would end his career if true, and all because he said something you just don't like. You should be ashamed.
      jgm@...
    • RE: If HP/ARM rumors are true, AMD might be the big loser

      @thombone I think this is a highly inappropriate personal attack. The author presented a reasoned opinion, he may be incorrect in some peoples' eyes, but that doesn't make him a liar or a fraud the way you depicted.
      terry flores
  • RE: If HP/ARM rumors are true, AMD might be the big loser

    When ARM made that 64-bit announcement recently you can bet there is one or more big chip makers behind them ready to churn out silicon ready 64-bit ARMs very very soon.
    ARM don't make vapour-ware announcements.
    ProfQuatermass
  • Is there a question about capability?

    By that, I mean how do ARM processors compare to conventional x86/x86-64 processors from Intel & AMD in the same price bracket? Yeah, lower wattage/power usage sounds nice, not only for cutting the electric bill but also making a cooler-running system. But how does the performing of *server* functions compare between them?

    That, I think, will be the key question. Just as with consumers (like me) that pick AMD chips over Intel, ARM will be a threat to AMD if the processor can provide 80% or more of the same server processing capability for 50-60% of the cost. But once the performance & price ratios start approaching parity (i.e. ARM chip costs 60% as much as the AMD chip, but provides only 60-65% of the performance), then you'll start seeing IT clients saying, "Yeah, the AMD chip is more expensive, but it does a better job providing the service we need, so it's the better investment".

    And I have to be honest...chips that, up until now, are primariliy found in smartphones & a handful of tablets are *not* what come to mind when I think of "server CPUs"...
    spdragoo@...
    • RE: If HP/ARM rumors are true, AMD might be the big loser

      @spdragoo@...

      Arm chips don't recognize Intel X86 instructions, so they won't run ANY current Windows programs. Linux, though will run without any problems. They would make a very good system if there were enough processors and a large capacity data bus.

      It'd be a good system but not a Windows one.

      Microsoft is aware of this, and is promising that the next version of Windows (8 that is) will run on Arm. Take into accounts that historically Microsoft only gets it right on the third try. This might influence your decisions on server processors. It already does for super computers.
      YetAnotherBob
  • RE: If HP/ARM rumors are true, AMD might be the big loser

    They could care less about raw data processing comparisons or benchmarks, and have no idea about Intel's permissible limits of variation, their standard deviation of overclocked and "Turbo-ed" ratings, all they care about is "are the numbers larger than the last one we bought".[url=http://botarin.cz]vrasky[/url].Thanks and wish all the best.
    adam drabik