Several years ago, Advanced Micro Devices had tremendous success with the Dual-Core Opteron, taking business away from Intel and enjoying a widely acknowledged technological edge. AMD forever changed the x86 computing landscape. But the tables have turned a bit, with Intel beating AMD to the quad-core punch. Delays in getting the Quad-Core Opteron out to the market have put AMD behind the eight ball. Still, the company believes it has an innovative chip in its own right, despite any timing miscues.
"I hoped we would have launched our new quad-core products earlier, but the timing doesn't impact that we are delivering a best-in-class product designed first and foremost to best meet the needs of our customers," said AMD CEO Hector Ruiz. "Our competitor may have enjoyed a brief window of exclusivity in offering a quad-core product, but that window is shut. The door is wide open for AMD, as we believe we are delivering a solution that will prove to be the smarter choice."
AMD believes the processor will be the most advanced on the scene, and that its impact on the channel will be significant. The chip maker has, therefore, worked aggressively to prepare solution providers and the entire channel for this new technology.
"We have nine validated server platforms at launch, a first for AMD, and AMD's channel partners can be early to market with Quad-Core AMD Opteron processor-based solutions," Ruiz said.
AMD has more than 50 quad-core-ready platforms available for solution providers through leading OEMs, including Acer, Cray, Dell, Egenera, Fujitsu-Siemens Computers, Gateway, Hewlett-Packard, IBM and Sun. All of those platforms are upgradable to Quad-Core AMD Opteron processors with a switch of the chip and a BIOS flash.
"Later this year, you'll see even greater enablement for the channel, including continued rollouts from AMD's OEM and systems-builder partners, and higher-frequency quad-core parts," Ruiz explained. "You'll also see more validated platforms as we continue to enhance our channel programs."
The positioning is meant to help AMD's channel partners deliver various solutions to their own customers. In addition, the vendor is setting the stage for the introduction of blazing performance later this year in computers for digital media and gaming enthusiasts.
Enter the Phenom. AMD will replace its venerable Athlon processor with this new quad-core, planned for release in the fourth quarter of 2007. The company hopes the release will continue AMD's tradition of architectural leadership and customer-centric innovation. However, it still faces the challenge of convincing its systems-builder partners ahead of that launch that this new quad-core desktop CPU has the best platforms and is ready to start building systems around. It's a daunting task, considering there are only two more months left in the year. Still, Ruiz remains optimistic, believing that the key to success lies with AMD's solution providers.
"We remain committed to help our channel partners differentiate their product portfolios and grow their businesses," Ruiz said. "With the Quad-Core AMD Opteron and AMD Phenom processors, AMD is collaborating with its systems-builder partners to make sure they have what they need to innovate and develop solutions. [And], through our AMD Validated Solutions program, we are helping systems builders deliver top-of-the-line commercial client systems based on AMD64 technology and best-of-breed platforms."
Clearly, AMD has a hot product on its hands. The less encouraging news is that some systems-builder partners say they've had trouble getting their hands on product in the month since AMD launched the server chips. An informal poll of partners indicates that delivery of quad-core Opterons has been an issue.
"Overall, it's a winner. But the execution of the rollout wasn't as crisp as we would have liked. The parts they launched first were not their top-of-the-bin ones," said John Lee, vice president of Advanced Technology Solutions Group—Appro. "We were lucky as a premier partner, so we got access to a lot of processors. But the supply of some parts has been difficult. They were late with the product to start with, so obviously there could be internal issues in getting it out. Also, AMD is doing a lot of business with the Tier 1s, so maybe the channel is feeling a little bit of heat because of this," he said.
Shah Gautam had a great deal of praise for AMD, but the president of Sunnyvale, Calif.-based custom server builder Colfax guessed that the channel was being pushed to the back of the line for the Barcelona rollout.
Still, Gautam wasn't concerned with the rate of the ramp-up.
"Right now, it's running at a week or so lead-time on orders, which is to be expected," he said. "We can place orders and get product when we need it. From that perspective, just a few weeks after the launch, it's been a pleasant surprise."