AMD: Building Blocks For Building Clouds
I met with Margaret Lewis, she is director of commercial solutions and software at Advanced Micro Devices. She spends a lot of time talking with data center managers about their needs and the transition to cloud computing.
Here are some notes from our conversation:
- AMD is creating microprocessors with many cores because clock-speed alone cannot increase the performance of IT systems. With several cores on a processor, servers can be virtualized and that means applications can be provisioned dynamically, which results in better utilization of IT resources.
- To get the most benefit from virtualization and cloud computing you should have software that can run in parallel. There are 3 buckets of software: the legacy software which will run faster because the hardware is better; there is software that has been optimized for parallel processing; and there is software that has been created from scratch to take advantage of parallel processing.
- In most cases it is not worth trying to adapt legacy software you might as well just start from scratch.
- Operating systems and tools can help optimize some software to run in parallel, but there is a limit to how much can be done with this approach.
- A data center of the future will consist of many standard modules that can be used for general purpose computing, but there will also be modules that are tuned for specific applications such as databases. The key is to provide common kernels so that data centers can assemble the types of specialist or general purpose computing systems that suit their business.
- Virtualization is inevitable because it provides you with flexibility and agility in the data center. It can also help reduce admin costs.
- AMD believes that there is a sweet spot out there for processors that run fast, consume low power, at a great price. Not everyone needs the fastest processor.
- Intel has its Atom processor, which is designed for netbooks but AMD has no plans for a similar processor. The performance of Atom based netbooks is poor. AMD is focused on providing high performance in a netbook form factor so that people's user experience is much richer.
- AMD led Intel in low power and we still do. We also lead in virtualization.
- We will be leveraging our ATI graphics technology. There is a lot of video and graphics pre-processing that can be done in the cloud rather than at the client end.
- The poor economy means that customers are delaying upgrading their data centers but that doesn't mean that their IT systems can run forever. We are able to extend the life of some servers through a processor upgrade. At some point people will have to upgrade their data centers because they are running out of capacity.
- The economy might be bad but that doesn't mean that company's business requirements have gone down. And there is a need to comply with upcoming government regulations--some of the older systems will have trouble running those applications.