AMD's new CEO likes basketball and the chip maker's future

Rory Read, an ex-IBM executive, wants to look past Intel

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Recent key hires with IBM experience on their resumes include Lisa Su, senior vice president and general manager for AMD's global business unit, who joined AMD in January. Prior to taking that job, she was a senior vice president and general manager at Freescale Semiconductor. Before Freescale, Su worked for 13 years at IBM.

Another IBM veteran is Mark Papermaster, who joined AMD last October. He also worked at Apple and Cisco.

A third top hire is Rajan Naik as senior vice president and chief strategy officer. Naik spent 11 years at consulting firm McKinsey, and before that as a senior engineer at Intel.

Read sees three big trends driving the market: consumerization, cloud and convergence. The later trend, convergence, is about how data and applications will flow across all devices, which "will break down this idea that there is only a single operating system, or a single solution," he said.

Consumerization will deliver "the next billion or two billion customers coming from emerging markets," Read said. "They're going to buy at entry and mainstream price points, where we play very strong," he said.

Cloud computing is changing both the data center and the client. Users want clients that can work with low bandwidth and still deliver a great experience, Read said. That involves building chips that combine the CPU and GPU technology, or what is called an Accelerated Processing Unit (APU), which includes AMD's Brazos, low-powered chip. AMD has sold about 30 million of those chips.

"It's the most successful platform we've ever had," Read said.

The SeaMicro acquisition gives AMD access to a relatively new approach to server design that uses lower-power chips in a dense design on small motherboards and that's optimized for specific workloads, such as multimedia and search. The company, founded in 2007, received a $9.3 million grant in 2009 from the U.S. Department of Energy to help in its development of low-power systems.

Read believes demand for SeaMicro's technology will grow with the cloud, and its design will be able to support any number of compute core types made by AMD and others, such as ARM. Read is careful to point out that he's not saying ARM will be in the mix.

Less than a decade ago, AMD rocked the server market with its release of the Opteron processor. This was the first 64-bit x86 chip, which had been previously limited to 32-bit processors. It forced Intel to respond with its own 64-bit chip.

But AMD also suffered delays in meeting chip release dates, an issue that Read is particularly interested in correcting.

What AMD customers want, Read said, "is a company that they can trust to deliver on its commitments and execute on those commitments every day, day in and day out."

Read said customers see AMD "as a company that is innovative, creative, that can do the next big thing." At "the same time, they want that company to be there every day, to be able to assist them and create the solutions that help them win."

The SeaMicro acquisition caught a lot of people by surprise, King said, and overall Read "has done very well in the short term."

"Out of the block he has done some pretty interesting and thought-provoking things," King said.

Patrick Thibodeau covers cloud computing and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @DCgov or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed . His email address is

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Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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