Advanced Micro Devices is hoping to use its new EPYC server processors to chip away at Intel’s dominant market share.
It took a strong step in that direction when giant Chinese internet search company Baidu said it will use AMD’s EPYC chip in systems running such emerging workloads as artificial intelligence and analytics as it expands the use of the processors in the coming year.
Baidu officials said the company will use the processors in some systems that are part of its AI, big data and cloud computing (ABC) services. In addition, in the first quarter of 2018, Baidu will use the EPYC processors in more of its data centers worldwide. The company said AMD’s chips will bring greater efficiency and flexibility to its cloud services offerings.
"By offering outstanding performance in single-processor systems, the AMD EPYC platform provides flexibility and high-performance in our data center, which allows Baidu to deliver more efficient services to our customers," Liu Chao, senior director of Baidu’s System Technologies Department, said in a statement.
The Baidu announcement came a week after AMD officials announced that Microsoft would become the first major cloud provider to use the EPYC chips on its cloud platform, in this case Azure Cloud.
Microsoft officials said they were using AMD’s chips in their latest L-Series of virtual machines that will run storage-optimized workloads, in particular taking advantage of the high core count and connectivity support in the EPYC products. Like Baidu, Microsoft officials said it plans to continue working with AMD in the future.
These are not the only customer wins AMD has announced for the EPYC chips.
Hewlett Packard Enterprise officials last month announced they were putting the EPYC chip into their ProLiant DL385p server—which currently uses AMD’s Opteron chips—and into its upcoming Cloudline CL3150 ultra-dense cloud storage server.
The DL385 Gen10 is a dual-processor, 2U (3.5-inch) rack server that will be able to scale to 64 cores, 4TB of main memory and 128 PCIe lanes. The Cloudline CL3150 Gen10 is a 1U (1.75-inch) system that will run AMD’s EPYC 7000 series chips.
Taken by itself, the Baidu announcement isn’t huge, according to Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst with Moor Insights and Strategy. But when combined with other strides AMD has made with EPYC in just a few months, it’s significant.
“It’s a big deal,” Moorhead told eWEEK. “AMD is gaining momentum. This isn’t just kicking the tires. It’s deployments.”
He compared it to what Arm-based server chip makers have experienced over the years, where there has been interest, but no widespread deployments. AMD, on the other hand, is seeing companies such as Microsoft and Baidu putting EPYC-based computing into the hands of their customers, Moorhead said.
The EPYC chips are part of a larger strategy by AMD that focuses on building processors using its Zen microarchitecture that can challenge Intel in such areas as high-end PCs, laptops and servers.
AMD was able to seize more than 20 percent of the server chip market more than a decade ago when it launched its first Opteron processors, which were the first to bring 64-bit capabilities to the x86 architecture. However, over the years AMD lost ground and now Intel holds more than 90 percent market share.
However, cloud providers and enterprises for several years have been looking for an alternative to Intel to help fuel innovation, drive down prices and protect against potential supply chain issues.
Arm and some of its chip-making partners—in particular Qualcomm—and IBM and its OpenPower initiative are looking to be that other option. AMD is making its mark with EPYC, which offers up to 32 cores, 64 threads, eight DDR4 channels, up to 2TB per chip and up to 128 PCIe lanes.
It also is based on the x86 architecture, which makes it easier for systems makers to shift from Intel than other offerings. AMD officials say EPYC delivers 2.6 times the density of competitive offerings.
A key to EPYC is the single-socket value proposition it brings, Moorhead said. It offers a lot of bandwidth and a lot of cores in a simple design, which is why so many companies are anxious to use it. That momentum will enable AMD to gain significant market share in the coming year, he said.
“It’s not a question of if AMD is going to take market share, it’s about how much and when,” the analyst said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if they get as much as 5 percent market share in 2018.”
A challenge for AMD will be in how they respond to Intel. The larger chip maker operates best when it has competition, and in AMD and EPYC, Intel now has competition, Moorhead said.