There is no denying that while Advanced Micro Devices is making headway in the embedded and semi-custom markets, the PC CPU business has been a challenging one for them. They have struggled to maintain share in both the consumer and commercial PC space, but have recently been very quietly clawing back into the market and getting major design wins with all of the important commercial and enterprise players. All of these design wins are powered by AMD’s APUs which are delivered on a single piece of silicon, vary in performance, size, and price. Much of that has come as a result of their recent focus on enterprise client products and delivering value to business customers with their “PRO” brand of APUs. Advanced Micro Devices is carefully positioning these products in ways that allow them to be competitive in terms of price to performance as well as enterprise features.
The three APUs that Advanced Micro Devices is pushing into enterprise notebooks, thin clients and desktops are their latest Kaveri APUs accompanied by the lower power Beema and Kabini, Beema’s predecessor. Kabini is actually one of AMD’s most successful APUs of all time and Beema could offer an even better result for AMD if they can get the key design wins to ship in volume. Kaveri is AMD’s first APU with HSA features, but since there isn’t any agreed upon HSA compliance test, it cannot technically be “HSA compliant”. This could give AMD’s APUs an advantage in the form of improved performance and efficiency, but this will be directly dependent on how many applications fully leverage it.
Right now, AMD has major design wins with Acer , HP, Dell and Lenovo in the commercial and enterprise notebook, thin client and desktop space, which is much better than where they were only a few years ago.
- HP: From HP, the design wins come in the form of the HP t620 and t520 thin clients, the HP EliteDesk 705 Desktop Mini and Micro Towers, the HP EliteOne 705 all-in-one and three of the HP EliteBook 700 series notebooks (HP EliteBook 725, HP EliteBook 745 and EliteBook 755). The biggest deal with the EliteBook and EliteDesk is that these are true enterprise-grade design with enterprise features and warranties, not just commercial or small business, with all the advantages that come with Elite brand.
- Dell: All of Dell’s Wyse 5000 series thin clients utilize AMD’s APUs as do their Dell Vostro 3445 and 3555 notebooks.
- Lenovo: Lenovo’s designs that utilize AMD hardware include the Lenovo B50-45 notebook, ThinkPad E555 and E545 notebooks and the ThinkCentre M79 and M78 desktops. Like HP’s EliteBook, the ThinkPad and ThinkCentre brands are fully enterprise worthy.
- Acer: AMD has also managed to get design wins with Acer and their Veriton line of desktops with the Acer Veriton N 2120G, Veriton M 2120G and the Veriton X 2120G.
The reason that this is happening is for a multitude of reasons, but primarily because of AMD’s solutions offer outside of raw CPU performance at the high end. Intel still beats AMD at the highest end when you look at single threaded CPU performance, but AMD wants businesses to understand that a business does not succeed purely on the single threaded performance of their PCs. Because of that fact, AMD’s APUs offer acceptable CPU performance alongside impeccable GPU performance to allow for smooth user experiences regardless of resolution.
In industry benchmarks like 3DMark Firestrike and PCMark 8 V2 Work, AMD’s PRO Kaveri processors outperform the competition at similar price points while offering serious value for the money. With those industry standard benchmarks out of the way, AMD has put a greater focus on things that help run a business’ IT and with that they’ve partnered with Broadcom to enable in-band and out-of-band DASH functionality through Broadcom’s TruManage. This allows for an enterprise’s IT management software and teams to easily monitor and maintain the devices on their network. Partnering with Broadcom on connectivity also gives AMD an opportunity to provide quality wired and wireless communications, which they lack when you look at them compared to their major competitors that offer complete processing and connectivity solutions. Broadcom lacks major processing and graphics capabilities and AMD lacks connectivity, so the two are almost a match made in heaven. As a result, AMD’s partnership with Broadcom has enabled for a smarter and more enterprise-friendly solution that companies’ IT departments will find attractive.
AMD also tries to differentiate their PRO line of APUs with the addition of key features that might be found on other platforms or simply unique to AMD’s APUs. Some features include AMD Face Login, AMD Gesture Control, AMD Picture Perfect image stabilization, AMD Quick Stream bandwidth management, AMD Start Now, AMD Wireless Display and AMD Enduro power management. Those are in addition, of course to that DASH enterprise functionality that AMD’s hardware supports, allowing for sophisticated yet cost effective IT management across the enterprise.
When you add all of these features up, you can start to see why AMD’s PRO APUs could be an attractive alternative for an OEM trying to differentiate its new products while still appealing to the budget conscious enterprise and commercial customer.
As for Intel… AMD isn’t going head to head with Intel on vPro as AMD doesn’t have the investment power to go toe to toe with Intel’s enterprise client investments. They are slotting themselves in between Intel’s classic Core i3, i5 and vPro. AMD offers many features important to commercial and enterprise OEMs and end users across the entire line, not just their premium SKUs. AMD won’t nor will they want to keep up with Intel’s investments in Security with McAfee, one of the biggest vPro differentiators. Nor does AMD appear interested in investing tens of millions to build a commercial ecosystem for a wireless conference room experience. AMD is essentially offering commercial features across their entire line, delivering base level and industry standard manageability features in processors that score well on a few key industry benchmarks at a decent price. And that value proposition has obviously been attractive to commercial and enterprise OEMs like HP, Lenovo, Dell, and also Acer. AMD now needs to convert their sales in to sales out.