By Sherief Younis
AMD has not minced its words in the long-running multi core technology battle with Intel, and Henri Richard, executive vice president and chief sales and marketing officer at AMD, has been more vocal than most. Sherief Younis drops by his hotel suite and finds the AMD talisman in pragmatic mood.
Arabian Computer News
What brings you to the region?
This is the most exciting place in the world especially in our industry. We've just appointed a new vice president for the region, Gautam Srivastava, so as part of helping him settle, it's also an opportunity to meet our partners here. It was easy for me to come here to Dubai and I felt it was important to show my support.
Your rivalry with Intel is well documented and they have a strong presence here in the region. What is your strategy?
The region is interesting for us because it's our lowest market share worldwide. It's also interesting because we started here relatively late but now it's an important part of our growth strategy and we're doubling down in terms of resources. We operate out of Dubai for the MENA region, and if you look at the potential of IT in the region it's quite exciting.
I know that everybody likes to pit us against Intel but I like to believe there is enough room in the region for two players; I hope Intel's strategy is to focus on growing the market and not simply to beat us up. I personally think there is a place for Intel in this industry, but we're more focused on serving our customers.
AMD established itself in the region quite late. Why was that and why enter the Middle East market at this point?
We had limited resources when I started at AMD five years ago. The most important market for us to penetrate at that time was China, and we started from a position where we had no partnerships with any of the local manufacturers. We've traditionally been strong in Latin America but we had a lot of work to do in Russia and the Middle East as well. It came down to prioritising the size of the markets and now we think it's time for us to invest here.
What are the core issues are AMD is looking to address entering the Middle East market?
There's been a lot of discussion in the industry recently in relation to benchmarking. Our competition is really using unethical behaviour to present the performance features of their products that don't represent reality: using older benchmarks, comparing our old technology to their new technology. But I'll go beyond the polemic of trying to manipulate the reality - I'd like to focus on a question that's more fundamental. It's bizarre to think an industry as large and complex, with the level of maturity ours has, doesn't have standard metrics where by users can understand in laymen's terms exactly what they're buying. The fact that after so many years we don't have miles per gallon or kilowatt per hour - it's kind of crazy.
We're going to drive towards more transparency because we think people should win on the merit of their products - the more we inform the end user the better it is for the industry. There's really a need for the industry to focus on that.
How much emphasis does AMD place on green computing?
In the enterprise sector, power consumption, heating and cooling is a very important topic because data centres are limited in space and power; maybe a little less in this part of the world but in Europe and America it's difficult to create new data centres and certainly impossible to get more power in existing data centres.
Even at the end user level, if you buy a fridge or a TV, it tells you clearly how many watts per hour it's going to use. If you consider the millions of PC users combined they consume a lot of power, and it's interesting people will readily change their light bulbs to save energy but will buy a PC without considering how much power they consume. Energy efficiency hasn't really been a focus for the industry, so we've started bringing energy efficient processors to the desktop market, and in the server space we have a slew of initiatives in that respect.
A lot has been made of the battle between AMD and Intel. What benefits will enterprise users and consumers derive from multi core technology?
The market place today is really divided into two large categories. In the enterprise infrastructure space, the focus is very much on bigger, faster, better and I've yet to meet a customer in enterprise who doesn't want a faster processor. What's changed is it used to be ‘I just want the fastest thing I can get' but this mentality has changed slightly - the demand is still for performance speed but it's within a power envelope.
In the end user space things are going to start to change, and the simple reason for that is something I like to call the ‘good enough syndrome'. When you press the enter key, if it's instantaneous, twice as instantaneous doesn't add anything. Quad core is definitely a huge milestone for the marketplace but it's going to be a lot different because client software doesn't use multiple threads. More often than not, your computer is only using one processor even in a dual core machine and that's simply because the machine's software has not been written to use two cores.
It's important to separate the marketing hype from the reality - there are certain applications that will benefit, but the vast majority of will not. There's a lot of work and a number of years before the client space will have the ability to use multiple threads created by those cores.
In laymen's terms, there are certain things that cannot be parallelised. I like to explain it: ‘If you have nine wives it doesn't mean you can make a baby in a month.' That's the problem you're facing with multi core - you can't take certain problems or pieces of software in such a way they run faster - it doesn't work."
Is your socket compatibility aimed at customer retention?
We like to think that offering socket compatibility today will encourage people to invest in an AMD infrastructure, knowing that they're protected in their investment if they ever need to move to quad core. That's one of the reasons why we have the backward compatibility. I think today, a customer within a certain budget will be better served by balancing the processor, graphics and the memory than they will by investing their money in just one of those aspects. We've always been strong advocates of balanced platform performance.For all the latest tech news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.