It’s Been An EPYC Couple Of Weeks For AMD

Advanced Micro Devices ( AMD ) has been busy on the server front. At Computex 2018 in Taipei, Lisa Su gave a brief, but compelling update on AMD’s server business (you can view here – go to the 20:35 mark). The “net – net” of this all is that EPYC is gaining momentum with OEM partners and cloud providers. And oh, by the way, the next generation EPYC system-on-a-chip (SoC), Zen 2, is in AMD labs. It will be sampling (testing by select partners & customers) in the second half of 2018 with a planned launch of 2019. Built on a 7 nanometer (nm) manufacturing process, EPYC will be leading the industry. Does this set up AMD for long-term success in the server space? Let’s dig a little deeper.

Cisco – it’s a big deal –  bigger than you may think

Cisco recently announced the launch of the UCS C4200 multinode rack server chassis, capable of supporting up 4 UCS C125 M5 rack server nodes in a 2u form factor. The chassis provides power and cooling to these nodes that are well-suited for scale-out cloud and edge deployments. The specs on this server are incredible—up to 256 cores accessing up to 16TB of DDR4 RAM across a 2-rack unit (RU) form factor. While I don’t see many mid-market or small enterprise customers for this product, I believe Cisco will find success in the cloud service provider space.

It is important to note that this is the first AMD-based server platform for Cisco’s UCS portfolio. This signals Cisco’s understanding around the importance of performance and performance-per-dollar needs of today’s IT organizations. Further, by automating deployment, configuration and management through Intersight, Cisco has a powerful management story for distributed deployments.

Tencent – another AMD win in the cloud

Anybody who followed AMD’s launch of EPYC last year may remember that there was a big focus on cloud. A couple of months following launch, AMD issued a press release stating (among other things) that Tencent intended to deploy servers based on the EPYC SoC. Almost a year later, this intent has turned into reality.

Tencent has made compute instances based on EPYC SoCs available for 3-D rendering, genetic modeling, and e-commerce—quite a diversity of workloads. 3-D rendering and genetic modeling are perhaps the most interesting as these workloads can benefit from high performing, high core CPUs that are assisted by GPUs. However, the details seem scarce on what server platforms are being deployed and what sits in those platforms.

Regardless, this is yet another win for AMD in the cloud space. I will be interested to see what influence these wins have on enterprise customers currently evaluating EPYC-based server platforms.

The HPE ProLiant DL325 launches – perhaps the biggest news of all

One of the biggest bits of news out of AMD’s press event was the launch of the Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) ProLiant DL325 Gen10 server. This is a server that is unique in that it appeals to IT organizations across market segments. Small business to mid-market to enterprise. The DL325’s single socket architecture drives cost efficiency, but its feature set enables enterprise-class performance.

Based on my experience, I’ve seen the average enterprise-class server in a server room/datacenter rack average about 20 cores, total. That’s two populated sockets supporting virtualized environments. The DL325 can support up to 32 cores, in a single socket—addressing up to 2TB of DDR4 RAM across 8 memory channels. This server should deliver great price performance for virtualized infrastructure while driving down costs.

HPE is on to something with the DL325. Performance is delivered through EPYC and the DL325 architecture. Security is delivered through HPE Silicon root-of-trust. And enterprise manageability is available through HPE’s OneView management console. For more on the DL325, read this research brief on the potential disruption of single-socket servers, developed by Moor Insights & Strategy.

And then there’s that Zen 2 news…

OK, so maybe this is the biggest takeaway from the Computex press event. Zen 2 (next gen EPYC) is in the labs—it will start sampling later this year, and launches next year. AMD is executing against its plan. This is a direct reflection on Lisa Su’s leadership and the culture she is fostering.

Why is this big news? IT consumers are a conservative bunch. These are the people that can get fired for making the wrong bet. In a world where that IT organization has to do more with less and is getting pulled in thousand directions on a daily basis, they need absolute confidence in the infrastructure deployed in their server rooms and datacenters. EPYC is AMD’s first step in rebuilding confidence. Zen 2 sends a clear message to these IT consumers that AMD is not only in the game, but aggressively trying to lead the pack.

What does this all mean?

Designing, manufacturing, and delivering CPUs is an interesting game. While a firm can design and build the most innovative silicon on the planet, its success is ultimately controlled by the ecosystem that adopts, embraces, and promotes that CPU in solutions that are delivered to the marketplace. That ecosystem is deep—from hardware to software, to distributors, integrators, and resellers that ultimately deliver that complete solution to an IT administrator.

AMD partners are delivering platforms around EPYC. More importantly, hardware partners are building differentiatedplatforms around EPYC in addition to standard rack server platforms. What’s interesting is that each partner is finding a unique way of differentiating its server solution. This is good for AMD and good for AMD partners.

I will be looking for adoption and promotion of EPYC-based servers through the national reseller channel (e.g. Connection, CDW, etc.). Pull through these channels will demonstrate success in the volume segment for AMD and its partners, and success in this segment can mean significant market share gains.