AMD is continuing its push into the PC and server chip markets, which may serve to give channel partners more options for meeting growing OEM and customer demand for silicon supplier alternatives to Intel, according to Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst with Moor Insights and Strategy.
System makers and businesses alike have been pining for more choices when it comes to processor vendors in hopes that more competition will accelerate innovation and drive down prices.
AMD's upcoming chips should give them options in important segments of the PC and servers spaces, which will be a boon for partners, Moorhead said.
"AMD-powered PCs and servers bring more choice to the channel and, in some circumstances, differentiation for the channels who assort it," the analyst said. "Both [Ryzen] Threadripper [for PCs] and EPYC [for servers] are unique in very highly threaded environments and EPYC in single-socket [systems]."
Intel, with its broad family of x86-based processors, has long been the dominant player in both PCs and servers, with market shares for both well north of 90 percent (some analysts have placed Intel's share of servers at more than 98 percent).
Meanwhile, OEMs and end users, for competitive and pricing reasons, have been hoping other vendors will chip away at Intel's market share. In addition, having a second silicon provider gives them protection should there be a disruption in Intel's vast supply chain.
There are contenders. Both ARM and IBM through its OpenPower efforts are making a push for a greater presence in the server space.
In AMD's case, 12 years ago it had about 20 percent of the server chip market, but that has essentially disappeared. Over the past decade it has made occasional runs at its larger rival in servers and PCs, but with limited success.
However, earlier this month officials at an AMD meeting with financial analysts unveiled more details about the company's upcoming Threadripper and EPYC processors - as well as next-generation Vega Frontier GPUs for workstations - giving the industry greater hope for more competition in the chip market and a boost to the somewhat stagnant PC and server markets.
AMD introduced Threadripper, a high-end PC chip with 16 cores and 32 threads and scheduled for release this summer. At the same time, officials laid out plans for other Ryzen processors aimed at systems like 2-in-1s and gaming desktops, as well as low-end systems, which are due out later in the year and are based on the Zen microarchitecture.
On the server side, AMD announced EPYC, a chip that had been codenamed "Naples" and based on Zen and that will offer up to 32 cores and 64 threads with bulked-up capabilities around interconnect and memory. It could also help reduce costs for large enterprises and cloud datacenters by enabling a single-socket EPYC server to potentially replace a two-socket system powered by Intel Xeons.
More details are expected at the Computex 2017 show next week in Taiwan.
This is good news for the channel, which will have a broader array of solutions that it can sell to customers.
"I am confident [Threadripper] will do well in both OEMs and the channel," Moorhead said. "AMD announced that the Ryzen desktop [chip] would be in the top five desktop OEMs by the end of June, and I have seen models already from Lenovo, Acer and Asus. EPYC is newer, and I'm interested in seeing third-party testing. Intel has 99 percent share in servers, so there is a strong desire to have an alternative."
That same desire is evident in parts of the PC market, particularly gaming and commercial PCs, a reason that AMD is currently doing well in the channel, Moorhead added. Threadripper will be "less of an alternative, but likely the only 32-thread desktop CPU available for a while", he noted.
It's now up to partners to learn as much as they can about the new AMD chips, according to the analyst.
"The channel should take advantage of all the channel training AMD has available and also trial the products to get up to speed with how they work," Moorhead said. "Technical training is the fairest priority, followed by go-to-market training.
In addition, the channel should work to leverage market development funds from both AMD and OEM, he said.
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