AMD Aims To Speed Up EPYC Milan Sales With Solutions Approach

‘If you look at our previous EPYC launches, we would launch the product and then you would do a lot of the optimization, and I think we’re seeing much more time-to-market for this [third-generation EPYC Milan] launch,’ CEO Lisa Su tells CRN about the chipmaker’s upcoming server processors.


AMD CEO Lisa Su said the company hopes to accelerate sales of its EPYC processors to enterprise customers by focusing on selling pre-validated server solutions with partners.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based company is shifting its focus to solutions selling with the upcoming launch of its third-generation EPYC processors, code-named Milan, Su told CRN in a roundtable discussion with journalists and analysts Tuesday after her CES 2021 keynote. The goal is to help partners and customers accelerate AMD-based server deployments by doing more of the heavy lifting of software optimization ahead of time.

[Related: Lisa Su’s Channel Awakening: Why Partners Could Be AMD’s ‘Largest Growth Opportunity’]

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This go-to-market approach is in contrast with AMD’s first two generations of EPYC, according to Su.

“If you look at our previous EPYC launches, we would launch the product and then you would do a lot of the optimization, and I think we’re seeing much more time-to-market for this [third-generation EPYC Milan] launch,” she said. “And that’s true about OEM platforms and platform availability as well as the pre-validated solution capability.”

AMD started shipping EPYC Milan processors in volume in the fourth quarter of 2020, Su said. EPYC has seen strong adoption among cloud service providers since the brand first launched in 2017, so now the company is putting a much heavier emphasis on enterprise customers with Milan, which is set to officially launch in March, according to a document provided by AMD.

“Traditionally we’ve been very strong in cloud data centers, and you’ll continue to see strength in the cloud, but we’re increasingly also broadening the large enterprise focus of EPYC,” Su said. “And what that means is more of the business solutions that you’re talking about. When we do the larger launch events for EPYC [Milan] later this quarter, you’ll see some of that with our partners and how we’re putting together more full solution capabilities.”

This shift will be accompanied by a greater emphasis on the business value EPYC processors bring, according to Dylan Larson, director of product marketing for server solutions at AMD.

“We’re evolving the message to business value: how we unlock value beyond the speeds and feeds performance, and you’re going to see both compelling performance as well as solutions that we’re building with our partners to accelerate that time to value,” he said in a briefing with journalists.

While AMD did not provide more details about its plan to sell pre-validated solutions, partners told CRN that it sounds similar to programs run by Intel, like Intel Select Solutions, which provides a directory of reference architectures for a variety of workloads, including hybrid cloud, AI and analytics.

“This is a recipe for success to get you going in the right direction,” said a principal architect at a solution provider company that works with both Intel and AMD on server deployments.

Beyond helping accelerate deployments, AMD investing more in pre-validated hardware for a variety of workloads could also help increase with overall confidence in EPYC in the enterprise market, he added.

That’s important because software support has been a sticking point for value-added resellers and system integrators in the channel who recall sub-optimal experiences with AMD’s previous attempts in the data center market prior to EPYC’s launch in 2017.

“It’s kind of been a knock on AMD for a while in the server space that they don’t have the same [level of] validation,” said an executive at an IT distributor.

In an interview with CRN published in December, Su said software has been a “big area of investment” for the company, which has made “great strides” in optimizing software for its CPUs and GPUs. AMD’s growing number of software partners includes Microsoft, VMware, Oracle, Red Hat and dozens more.

“I would say that we have made great progress, and you should assume that we’re going to continue to invest in these areas and really ensure the customers who want to use our hardware have a very robust software ecosystem,” she said late last year.

The CEO of a high-performance computing integrator said Intel’s work to validate and optimize various workloads for servers with Intel Select Solutions is a great benefit because the kind of work would otherwise take up a lot of resources, both in time and in money, for his own company.

“In the best of times, we don’t have the resources for that,” he said. “It takes an enormous amount of money. It takes up an enormous amount of time. And during COVID times, it is absolutely impossible to do these things, to set up a lab where five people huddle around each other and do these things.”

The executive at the IT distributor said it’s only natural that AMD would follow in Intel’s footsteps with a server validation program as it seeks to grow within the enterprise market.

“That’s something they need in order to get more into the enterprise market,” he said.

However, the distribution executive said he hopes such a program from AMD would benefit the broader channel and not just larger, OEM-type partners, citing concerns about AMD’s manufacturing capacity.

“What’s the most logical place for them to start with? That’s going to be their large partners: [Hewlett Packard Enterprise], Dell and all those guys,” he said.