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AMD CTO: We Now Have A 'Razor's Edge' To Fight Against Intel

AMD CTO Mark Papermaster tells CRN why the company now has a "razor's edge" to compete against Intel and how it plans to win more market share in the server space.

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You previously held engineering positions at Apple and then Cisco. What attracted you to AMD?

You have to go back in time when you look at how I ended up at AMD, because it was late 2011, and AMD was in a very serious situation. It's known historically for its innovation and it's sitting on world-class IP (intellectual property) around CPU and GPU [graphics processing unit]. And my experience is on getting teams to gel, focus on products, really getting great products out from an engineering standpoint. So when one of the board members I had known most of my career called me and said, "you really have to consider AMD," at first I said, "no, it seems like a pretty big lift there, and I'm busy." And they said, "you know, you may look back on this if you didn't take it, it may be actually a chance of a lifetime to really help turn around a company." It was exactly right, because the talent at AMD is outstanding. It really understands technology, and its application in the industry. We know our markets well, so it really was a phenomenal opportunity to come here and help make an impact and marshal those resources to get out leadership technology products.

What's your main focus as far as responsibilities?

I have two jobs: I'm the CTO and I also run what's called technology engineering. From the technology engineering role, I drive product development, so it's creation of those base IPs that we use around the CPU and GPU technology, how they come together in the system on a chip, the product roadmaps, how we attack our competition. And as a CTO, I do a lot of external facing [work] as well, so it's translating that value proposition of our technology to our customers.

How would you describe the state of AMD's products back when you joined?

The emphasis seven years ago was highly weighted to mobile devices, which are very, very important. And they were important because they drove the company to focus on energy efficiency, which turns out matters in every application you have, whether you're in a laptop device, an embedded device in a piece of machinery or in an airplane or an automotive. Or, if you're in a data center, even there, power efficiency matters, because it affects how many of those CPUs or graphics engines you can pack in to a very small space. So the focus of the company that was really prioritizing, driving to mobile was very important and drove the company in energy efficiency. But what we had to do was get the roadmap to where it didn't lose any of that energy efficiency but brought the performance into the highest realms of what you can get in any commodity processor in the industry, and that's what we've done.

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