Components & Peripherals News

How AMD CEO Lisa Su Plans To Keep The Pressure On Intel, Nvidia

Dylan Martin

In an extensive interview with CRN, AMD’s CEO talks about how the company plans to keep the heat on Intel and Nvidia, how the $35 billion Xilinx acquisition will make it more relevant in the data center and where the company stands with component supply and software support.

What would you say are the most important decisions you've made as CEO so far?

So I joined AMD in 2012, and then became CEO in 2014. The reason I joined AMD is because I felt like this was a company that could be very important in the industry. I’ve always believed that processors are the center of the universe. I’m slightly biased, but I do believe that processors are a very, very important piece of how do you move the industry forward. And AMD is one of the few that has the capability to lead in processors. Since becoming CEO, after spending a lot of time with our employees and our customers and industry folks, it became clear that we had to set out a vision of having a very consistent and executable road map going forward, and that’s especially important with customers because when they decide to partner with AMD, it’s about a long-term partnership, it’s about investing resources over multiple years. And what we needed to do was to make sure that they had the confidence in us, that we would give them leadership products generation after generation after generation. So that was really my focus. No. 1, let’s decide what we want to be when we grow up, which is the leader in high-performance computing. And then No. 2, make sure that we earn people’s trust, our customers’ trust, our partners’ trust, that we will deliver that year in, year out, and that’s been very much the mantra of the last five or six years.

AMD has claimed with its new Ryzen 5000 desktop processors that it has leadership performance for both single-threaded and multi-threaded workloads. Do you anticipate that AMD will be able to maintain the continuous performance gains it’s made in the past few years for the generations of processors to come, or do you expect that Intel eventually will be able to catch up?

Our goal was to have overall leadership in CPUs. So when we started the Zen road map, the development started actually back in the 2013 time frame, and we put out the first generation of Zen in 2017. And then just very recently, we did the third generation, so Zen 3. And our goal has always been leadership, and the view is we believe that it would take us several generations. So first, we had a big catch-up generation, which was Zen 1. And then we did focus on multi-threaded leadership. And then we did more optimizations in Zen 2. And Zen 3 is just a very, very big step forward for us, particularly in the single-threaded performance arena. What we would say is we do believe we have leadership in the industry today. We’re very, very excited about that. I think the Ryzen 5000 series are going to be great desktop processors for our desktop fans. That’s going to translate into our EPYC processor line soon. And then you’ll see it also come out in notebooks. And so I think we feel very good about where we are, and it’s our intention to maintain leadership. Obviously, it’s a very competitive world out there and we know that, but we also have lots of ideas beyond Zen 3 today that are deep in development already.

Software support and optimization is one area where some solution providers have remained hesitant about AMD. Can you help CRN readers understand the invest­ments AMD is making in software?

This has been a big area of investment for us, both for CPUs and GPUs. Our desire is to offer a very competitive suite of tools as well as optimized application software that works on our technology. I think we’ve made great strides. We appreciate the partnerships across the industry to get that done. I think our compilers are much better, our tools are much better. The partnership with [companies] like VMware and others has really expanded [our capability to] provide that out-of-box experience that feels very easy to use. And that’s our focus. On the GPU side, there’s a lot of work going on in terms of libraries and also optimization on machine-learning frameworks like TensorFlow and others to also make the out-of-box experience with GPUs better. 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.

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