AMD Data Center Consolidation Effort Starting to Pay Off

The chip maker is looking to improve performance, increase efficiency and save money by consolidating 18 data centers into two.

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.