Last month, we gauged the prospects of two semiconductor giants, NVIDIA Corporation (NVDA) and Intel Corporation (INTC), which have carved out their niches and cornered a significant share of the GPU and CPU domains, respectively. In this article, we have talked about another chip company and its agile efforts to grab the best of both worlds while creating a widespread following of its own.
Founded in 1968 by a group of 8 men led by the larger-than-life Jerry Sanders, Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. (AMD) released its first product in 1970 and went public in 1972. Despite starting life as a supplier for INTC, AMD parted ways with its client in the mid-80s, and by the late 80s, it reverse-engineered INTC’s products to make its own chips that were compatible with INTC’s software.
AMD existed as both a chip designer and manufacturer, at least until 2009. However, significant capex requirements associated with manufacturing, amid financial troubles in the wake of the Great Recession, compelled the company to demerge and spin off its fab to form GlobalFoundries Inc. (GFS), which has been focused on manufacturing low-end chips ever since.
With the acquisition of ATI, a major fabless chip company, in 2006, AMD began shifting its focus toward chip designing and turned to Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company Ltd. (TSM) as its exclusive chip manufacturer.
With manufacturing no longer weighing it down, AMD started catching INTC with its Zen line of CPUs. Earlier this year, the former made history by surpassing the latter’s market cap for the first time ever. Chair and CEO Dr. Lisa Su is widely credited with the turnaround and transition from being widely dismissed due to performance issues and delayed releases to being the only company in the world to design both CPUs and GPUs at scale.
We look at how Dr. Su and her team’s unwavering focus on great products, customer relations, and simplifying the company’s structure to respond to the dynamic business with agility are shaping AMD’s offerings in each product category.
Despite a conservative outlook, AMD believes its Genoa CPU processors are superior to competitive offerings in terms of performance and efficiency across diverse workloads, including AI. During the recent AMD Data Center & AI Tech Premiere, the company expanded its EPYC server CPU portfolio by launching the highly anticipated Bergamo EPYC CPUs optimized for cloud environments.
Given the focus on single-threaded performance and energy efficiency, Meta Platforms, Inc. (META), which has collaborated with AMD to customize the design of the Bergamo server, reported seeing 2.5 times greater performance than AMD's previous generation Milan CPUs and notable improvements in total cost of ownership (TCO).
In addition, AMD also introduced Genoa-X as another workload-optimized alternative to Genoa for faster general-purpose computing and optimal technical computing tasks. The company also updated that its upcoming server CPU product, Turin, has shown promising initial results and remains on schedule for a 2024 release.
Data Center Portfolio
According to Dr. Su, Data Center is the most strategic piece of business as far as high-performance computing is concerned. AMD underscored this commitment with the recent acquisition of data center optimization startup Pensando for $1.9 billion.
At the premiere, AMD’s ambitions to capitalize on the AI boom were loud and clear, with the launch of MI300X (a GPU-only chip) as a direct competitor to NVDA’s H100. The chip includes 8 GPUs (5nm GPUs with 6nm I/O) with 192GB of HBM3 and 5.2TB/s of memory bandwidth.
AMD believes this will allow LLMs’ inference workloads that require substantial memory to be run using fewer GPUs, which could improve the TCO compared to the H100.
Lastly, the company aims to address the growing AI accelerator market, projected to be over $30 billion in 2023 and potentially exceed $150 billion in 2027.
Gaming and Other Applications.
While INTC and NVDA control most of the CPU and GPU market, respectively, AMD dominates gaming by designing 83% of gaming console processors.
The recently launched AMD Ryzen 5 5600X3D is equipped with AMD’s revolutionary 3D V-Cache technology. Despite being close to both the Ryzen 7 5800X3D and the non-3D Ryzen 5 5600X in terms of specifications, it comes with a lot of L3 cache, giving it an edge over the latter, thereby improving gaming performance.
Moreover, with Moore’s Law, which is the core of computer chip advancement, showing visible signs of a slowdown and the 5-decade-old x86 architecture gradually but surely being replaced by ARM, general-purpose computing using CPUs is making way for more customized solutions.
That has prompted AMD to acquire Xilinx for $49 billion to close one of the biggest acquisitions in semiconductor history. The investee is known for its reprogrammable adaptive chips called Field-Programmable Gate Arrays or FPGAs, which have diverse applications, such as robotics, telecommunications, agriculture, and space exploration.
As a result, AMD is expanding its footprint from PCs and supercomputers to Teslas and Mars Land Rover.
Despite its future readiness, geopolitical tensions between the U.S. and China could turn out to be the Achilles heel for AMD since all of its chips are made in China and Taiwan. Also, Mainland China accounts for roughly 30% of the company’s revenues.
Dr. Su also serves on President Biden’s council of advertisers on science and technology, which pushed hard for the recent passage of the Chips and Science Act, aimed at on-shoring and de-risking semiconductor manufacturing in the interest of national security by setting aside $52 billion to incentivize companies to manufacture semiconductors domestically.
Geographical diversification, as a result of this Act, could act as a hedge against geopolitical tensions for AMD by reducing reliance on Asian manufacturing.
As AMD continues to advance its x86 core computing chips along with diversifying to accommodate high-performance and customized computing, its more than 70% increase in stock price since the beginning of the year (and coincidentally during the AI wave) could be indicative of a company that is poised to gain market share and capitalize on the expanding demand for AI technology in various industries.