AMD Creates Graphics-Focused Business Unit

The launching of the Radeon Technologies Group reflects the importance AMD executives put on graphics in their larger product roadmaps.

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Advanced Micro Devices is creating a business unit for its broad array of graphics technologies, part of a larger move by company executives who see such market segments as gaming and immersive computing as keys to improving the chip maker's fortunes.

AMD officials on Sept. 9 announced the creation of the Radeon Technologies Group (RTG) and appointed Raja Koduri, corporate vice president of visual computing, to run the new business unit. He will report to President and CEO Lisa Su. The RTG will have engineering teams whose jobs will be to drive the development of AMD's graphics intellectual property (IP) in alignment with the company's overarching goals

Along with putting Koduri in charge of the business unit, AMD officials also said that Sean Burke, corporate vice president and general manager of the company's Professional Graphics business unit who has been at AMD since May, will now be responsible for all areas of AMD's consumer and professional graphics solutions.

"We are entering an age of immersive computing where we will be surrounded by billions of brilliant pixels that enhance our daily lives in ways we have yet to fully comprehend," Su said in a statement. "AMD is well-positioned to lead this transition with graphics IP that powers the best gaming and visual computing experiences today."

The creation of the RTG will enable a more agile and vertically integrated graphics business "focused on solidifying our position as the graphics industry leader, recapturing profitable share across traditional graphics markets, and staking leadership positions in new markets such as virtual and augmented reality," she said.

AMD in 2006 bought graphics technology vendor ATI Technologies for $5.4 billion. The deal came at a time when AMD was being battered by larger rival Intel, and many industry observers questioned why AMD would spend so much money to buy the company. The ATI acquisition did put a financial strain on the company, but officials at the time insisted that AMD needed improved graphics capabilities.

The company has since not only grown its discrete graphics portfolio to challenge Nvidia, but also began integrating GPUs onto the same piece of silicon as the CPU to create processors that officials called accelerated processing units, or APUs. Intel now also integrates graphics into many of its processors.

During a meeting in May with financial analysts in New York City, Su and other AMD executives said the company's graphics capabilities were a key differentiator and a cornerstone of their plans to bring the company back to sustained profitability. They said the graphics technology will play a key role in everything from gaming and immersive computing to virtual reality and future PC designs.

According to an AMD spokesman, the new group under Koduri will handle all aspects of graphics development, both the hardware and software engineering for products that will be used not only in AMD's APUs and discrete GPUs, but also in its semi-custom business, which was responsible for getting AMD technology into the latest generation of gaming consoles from Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo. The gaming industry is proving to be an important one for AMD.

"AMD is one of the few companies with the engineering talent and IP to make emerging immersive computing opportunities a reality," Koduri said in a statement.

In June, AMD rolled out its latest Radeon graphics cards—including the R9 Fury series—which were the first to include the chip maker's new High-Bandwidth Memory (HBM) technology. The HBM technology initially came to discrete GPUs, though officials have said it will appear in other products down the road. The new memory technology essentially stacks memory chips for greater performance, power efficiency and density. The new memory technology provides 60 percent more bandwidth than GDDR5, and a 4096-bit memory interface, according to the company.

With HBM, the R9 Fury delivers more than three times the performance-per-watt of GDDR5 while taking up 94 percent less surface area on the printed-circuit board.

Koduri initially came to AMD through the ATI acquisition. He was CTO of AMD's Graphics Products Group before leaving in 2009 to work at Apple for four years and Makuta VFX for more than two more. He returned to AMD in 2013. He headed up AMD's LiquidVR effort to create technology to improve virtual-reality experiences.

The moves mean that Matt Skynner, corporate vice president and general manager of AMD's Graphics Business and another former ATI executive, is leading the company.