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AMD Arena Offers Partners Prizes For Learning About CPUs, GPUs

'There's a thirst for companies to train their sales teams and marketing teams and employees on being experts for our product lines,' AMD channel executive Neil Spicer says of the chipmaker's new incentivized training program for partners.

AMD is giving partners a new interactive way to learn about the chipmaker's processors and technologies, and there's some big incentives for those who do their studying: free laptops, desktops and even AMD's high-performance Ryzen processors.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based company has launched a new online training program called AMD Arena that gives partners points that they can redeem for a variety of rewards in exchange for completing courses about the chipmaker's Ryzen, Radeon and EPYC products.

[Related: Why AMD Thinks Ryzen Pro 4000 CPUs Are Huge For Business Laptops]

Neil Spicer, vice president of sales for AMD's global component channel, told CRN that with all the new products AMD has released in the last couple years, particularly its new 7-nanometer CPUs and GPUs, the chipmaker wanted to created an easy way for channel partners and end users to stay updated.

"There's a thirst for companies to train their sales teams and marketing teams and employees on being experts for our product lines," Spicer said. "It's important whether you're a large reseller, small reseller or a mom-and-pop shop, these companies need to know what a vendor is doing."

AMD Arena is an expansion of the chipmaker's tools to arm channel partners with materials for education, sales and marketing. Existing include the AMD Partner Hub, which serves as a public repository of information for partners; a Meet the Experts interview series that highlights various players in the ecosystem; and a newsletter that brings all that content to the inbox.

Partners can use AMD Arena without the need to register, but they will need an account if they want to accrue points for the 53 online courses that are currently available. Course topics include AMD's Athlon, A-Series, EPYC, Ryzen, Ryzen Pro and Ryzen Threadripper processors as well as the chipmaker's Radeon and Radeon Pro graphics cards. The courses also cover the various technologies and software that complement the products, such as AMD FreeSync and AMD SenseMI.

The online courses are effectively webinars that last anywhere from six minutes to 16 minutes. Once completed, registered users are then given a quiz, which rewards points for correct answers. Registered users have a personal dashboard that allows them to track how many people they have and which courses they completed. The website also has a leaderboard to add a competitive element.

Depending on the amount of points accrued, AMD partners can potentially redeem rewards that range from AMD merchandise and non-AMD items like sporting goods, all the way to OEM laptops, desktops and all-in-ones as well as Ryzen processors. The company said it also plans to include Radeon graphics cards from add-in-board partners as well as Ryzen Threadripper processors in the future.

"There is such a diversity of people that can take this training, whether you are a reseller owner, a salesperson or the blue shirts at Best Buy," Spicer said. "Whether it's for your own personal PC at home, whether it's for you building a PC for your mom, dad, brother, sister, it's always going to be a different usage with how they [redeem and use] the products."

Spicer said AMD plans to keep AMD Arena updated with new course content as new products and technologies are released.

"We want to make sure the content is up to date, is relevant, and that people don't just come once, they continue to come back," he said. "And that's why we make a big effort around these tools."

The expansion of AMD's tools for partners arrives as the chipmaker seeks to whittle away the market share of its largest competitor, Intel, which continues to hold roughly 84 percent of the market for x86 processors in client computers and servers, according to the latest figures from Mercury Research.

Over the last few years, AMD has been fighting Intel's dominance in PCs and servers with its Ryzen and EPYC processor lines, respectively, for which the chipmaker has claimed price-performance advantages, thanks to its next-generation 7nm architecture.

However, while AMD has made market share gains against Intel, faster in the client space than the data center market, one advantage Intel has for partners is its longer history of investments in channel infrastructure, according to Kent Tibbils, vice president of marketing at ASI, a Fremont, Calif.-based Intel distributor that also resells some AMD-based solutions.

"We've been an Intel partner for 20 years and during that whole time, they've had this this type of program in place," he said.

Intel has been in the process of revamping and consolidating its partner programs into the new Intel Partner Alliance, which is expected to formally launch this year. Elements of the new partner program, however, have already launched, including Intel Partner University, an online training program that offers courses for a wide range of Intel technologies and products.

Like AMD Arena, Intel Partner University offers points for participation in courses, Tibbils said, but Intel partners can also get points for other activities, such as purchasing certain Intel products and participating in distributor events. Intel Partner University also gives partners badges for competencies they achieve in different topics, like Intel Optane memory or FPGAs.

"Not all of them take advantage," he said. "But it definitely does help for the customers that that do engage in it. They do find a lot of value and benefit. And we've seen even from the distributor side, it does help create loyalty between resellers, distributors and Intel."

At the same time, Tibbils said, AMD had to start somewhere with an incentivized training program, so he thinks the chipmaker is off to a good start.

"You have to start with something, so it's great that they have a program," he said. "That's always helpful and beneficial."

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