Competition between Intel and smaller rival Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) came into sharp focus in recent days with both chip makers running out lineups of new processors aimed at the enterprise PC and workstation space, highlighting the continued opportunity a stronger market rivalry means for channel partners.
AMD late last week unveiled the Ryzen Pro chips for enterprise desktop PC. They are based on the company's Zen architecture, the engine driving much of the vendor's renewed strength. The new chips are designed for businesses processing new emerging workloads, such as data analytics, virtual reality, artificial intelligence and computer-aided design and simulation.
The Ryzen Pro family includes the Ryzen Pro 3, Pro 5 and Pro 3 chips, which are designed to compete with Intel's Core i3, i5 and i7 processors. AMD officials claimed the new processors will deliver more cores and threads than competing products.
They also stressed the security and power efficiency of the new processors and noted that top-tier PC makers HP Inc., Lenovo and Dell all plan to roll out systems powered by the chips.
The AMD chips came just days after Intel introduced new Xeon processors aimed at workstations, including the Xeon W chips for mainstream systems that offer up to 18 cores and 36 threads for workstations and which officials claim deliver 1.38 times the performance of their predecessors and 1.87 times the performance of four-year-old systems. The vendor has also stressed the offerings' enhanced memory, security and reliability features.
Rob Enderle, principal analyst with The Enderle Group, applauded AMD for the innovation behind the new chips but noted that Intel's efforts in the mobile space played a role in helping its rival regain a foothold in the PC space.
"Intel took their eye off the ball for a bit as they focused on mobile markets that turned out to be a bridge too far for them," Enderle said. "The end result is that AMD, at least on the desktop and server, has fielded one of their most competitive offerings ever, and competition is returning interest and focus to the related segments."
A lot of attention has been paid to how the renewed competition between Intel and AMD in both the PC and server markets will benefit channel partners, which now have even more products in these spaces to offer customers. AMD has already released Zen-based chips for high-end desktops and servers.
In addition, while the overall global PC market is still struggling with declining shipments, segments like high-end desktops for gamers, enthusiasts, builders and businesses are seeing increased demand - thanks in part to newer components and migration to Windows 10 - and represent markets partners can sell into.
"Competition is generally a good thing because it draws interest [and] drives sales, and choices give channel partners a way to show value as they help customers make those choices," Enderle said.
ARM and manufacturing partner Qualcomm are also putting a wrinkle into the competitive landscape. ARM officials have long targeted the server space as a growth opportunity for their power-efficient chip designs, and Qualcomm is the leading chip maker in the ARM-based server market.
Microsoft has been working on developing a Windows 10 PC powered by ARM technology, and Qualcomm officials at the IFA 2017 show this week confirmed that their Snapdragon 385 processor will support the ARM-based PC, which will be unveiled by the end of the year.
"Qualcomm/ARM is very interesting because it attempts to shift focus from performance to connectivity," Enderle said. "It has still yet to be proven, but it is providing an interesting dynamic in the meantime."
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