Did AMD shoot itself in the foot by laying off open-source talent?

Troubled processor maker has reportedly closed a business unit focused on open source

The staff of Advanced Micro Devices' Operating System Research Center has been laid off, according to a report from The H Online, dramatically reducing the company's ability to contribute to the Linux community and support its own hardware on the platform.

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The job losses are part of AMD's previously announced decision to cut its worldwide staffing levels by 15%, as a response to poor sales and an increasingly niche role in the market.

The H Online reports that the OSRC -- located in Dresden, Germany -- employed 25 AMD workers. However, the publication added that the staff responsible for open-source graphics card drivers and accelerates processing units would be unaffected by the OSRC's closure.

Still, according to 451 Research senior analyst Jay Lyman, AMD may have done better to trim jobs elsewhere.

"Given the prominence and significance of open source software in the enterprise and in these areas of technology, particularly virtualization and cloud computing, AMD may be limiting itself long-term by cutting what seems like a less critical component of its organization in open source talent and expertise," he said in an email to Network World.

That said, however, Lyman added that it's important to realize the scope of the hurdles faced by AMD.

"AMD is obviously responding to dramatic market changes and disruptions, which include ARM-based enterprise servers, massive-scale workloads, virtualization and cloud computing. The company is trying to focus its energy and make its bets on these technologies and get leaner by cutting where it can," he wrote.

The microchip maker announced the 15% job cuts last month, after posting poor third-quarter financial results. 

UPDATE: Phil Hughes from AMD public relations contacted us after this article was published, to clarify the company's position on open source: 

"The closure of the OSRC in no way speaks to a lack of commitment by AMD to development of AMD optimized Linux kernels or supporting drivers. 

"AMD still has several Linux engineers in place and working on a variety of projects in preparation for our next-generation of client and server offerings. An example of this is our recent commitment to the Linaro engineering group, an effort among industry leaders to collaborate on the next generation of Linux for 64-bit ARM."

Email Jon Gold at jgold@nww.com and follow him on Twitter at @NWWJonGold.

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