AMD Data Center Consolidation Effort Starting to Pay Off

By Jeffrey Burt  |  Posted 2014-03-24

AMD Data Center Consolidation Effort Starting to Pay Off

SUWANEE, Ga.—Jake Dominguez and Andy Bynum slowly walk around the mostly empty, cavernous building that still looks much like the trucking and storage site it was until Advanced Micro Devices took it over more than two years ago and began transforming it into a data center.

But while this part of the 153,000-square-foot building looked more like a vacant warehouse than anything else, Dominguez and Bynum envision a space filled with data halls that the chip maker will use to run its business and engineering work for all of North America.

The two executives are driving a data center consolidation project for AMD in which the vendor's current North American facilities—spread throughout the region, from Texas and California to Colorado and Canada—will be shut down, and their operations moved to Georgia. And that is part of a larger effort by AMD to take all 18 of its data centers and consolidate them into two—the one here in suburban Atlanta, and another in Cyberjaya, Malaysia.

Dominguez, corporate vice president and CIO at AMD, Bynum, corporate vice president of global infrastructure and operations, and Margaret Lewis, AMD's director of service software planning, recently led a group of journalists on a tour of the facility here, outlining the plans for the building, the benefits of putting all of the company's IT operations into this data center, and the consolidation program's role in the company's larger efforts to make all of its operations more responsive and efficient.

They also stressed that AMD wants to use the new data center as a showcase for enterprise customers to see what can be done using AMD products.

"We're using all AMD technology," Bynum said. "You can run your entire data center on AMD, and this is how we do it."

AMD is undergoing a significant transition as the chip maker—like other established tech vendors—looks to make its way in an industry that is rapidly being transformed thanks to such trends as mobility, the cloud, big data and hyperscale computing. Under CEO Rory Read, AMD is focusing its efforts in growth areas such as ultraportable devices, dense servers, embedded systems and semi-custom chips. That effort helped AMD return to profitability in the third quarter 2013, and the goal is to have them account for half of the company's revenues in the coming quarters, reducing its reliance on the contracting PC market.

According to AMD's Dominguez, the company is also looking to make its internal workings more efficient as well, touching on everything from reducing the number of applications it runs to how officials approve and manage internal IT projects. AMD wants to reduce costs, improve efficiencies and increase productivity, he said.

The data center consolidation project is part of that effort, a way to leverage the products and intellectual property that AMD has developed and accumulated over the years to make the IT that runs the business and fuels the projects more efficient and cost-effective. Two years ago, AMD was like many other organizations, spending more of its IT money (70 percent) on maintenance than innovation (30 percent).

"We're trying to flip that," Dominguez said, adding that the company is shooting for a mix that involves 80 percent being spent on innovation. Thanks to what has been done up to this point, AMD is at about 60 percent innovation, 40 percent maintenance, he said.

Company officials are aiming to have all of the North American data centers housed in the Georgia facility by mid-2015, though Dominguez and Bynum say they are hopefully it can be done by the end of 2014. It's unclear what the overall impact of the consolidation will be on AMD's business numbers, but the results from having shut down the Austin, Texas, facility and bringing it to Georgia are encouraging, a part of the project that was completed in September 2013.

AMD Data Center Consolidation Effort Starting to Pay Off

AMD chose the Suwanee site because of the less-expensive power in Georgia and the tax advantages in the state, according to Bynum.  The executives said those advantages, combined with moving the Austin data center and the selling of the Texas campus, will result in $8.5 million in annual savings.

The Georgia facility has space for 10 1,500-square-foot data halls, though currently only two are being used. Much of the rest of the building is old warehouse space that will be converted as more of the older sites are consolidated into this one. Each data hall also has accompanying air cooling and power rooms. Both operating data halls account for about 6,000 square feet of IT space, with about 204 racks of IT equipment. About 1.2 megawatts of power are being used now, though the current capacity is 2 MW. That capacity can be expanded to 10 MW, according to company officials.

AMD reduced the 289 racks of IT equipment in its Austin facility to 160 racks in Suwanee, reducing power usage from 2.8 MW to 1.2 MW. The company is using a range of methods for cooling the data center and its systems, from hot aisle containment between the racks to higher chilled water temperatures (which means less infrastructure needed than in typical data centers) and—when possible in the Southern state—the use of fresh outside air.

The data center is processing 31,000 jobs per hour, or more than 23 million a month.

Through the consolidation, AMD is able to refresh its IT with more modern equipment, helping to reduce space and power requirements as well as operating costs. For example, AMD is virtualizing more than 90 percent of the corporate data center environment—the company's engineering grid is not as heavily virtualized—enabling the company to decommission 76 percent of its physical servers and 72 percent of its virtual servers before making the move from Austin, and reducing rack space by 45 percent.

Older servers running on one- and two-core processors were replaced by servers from Hewlett-Packard and Dell powered by two- to 16-core Opteron processors and 256GB of memory, the company said. Four racks of 4-year-old servers were replaced by a single rack of more modern and efficient systems, helping to reduce costs. The data center also is using some systems from AMD's SeaMicro business.

"What surprised me was [as the company got set to move the Austin facility] was how much gear we had that we did not know we had," Dominguez said. "It was amazing to me."

The changes were not limited to hardware. AMD made significant moves with its hardware, such as moving from an Oracle relational database to a system leveraging Apache Hadoop, Apache HBase using the Apahce HDFS distributed file system and other Apache Foundation technologies running on Opteron-powered Dell servers. The move improved performance and save AMD money, according to AMD's Lewis.

She noted the work AMD has done in the open-source community, not only with the Apache Foundation but also through the Facebook-led Open Compute Project, including the development of the Open 3.0 server motherboard. AMD's new data center also will help showcase what can be done in data centers by leveraging open technology, she said.

"The concept of Open Compute is still a new concept," Lewis said. "People are picking it up and playing with it."

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