AMD integrating Xilinx tech, pushing software development

AMD CEO Lisa Su says, ‘You should see us investing a lot more in software,’ particularly artificial intelligence.

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AMD is looking to quickly integrate Xilinx technology into its CPU business, but perhaps more significantly it’s developing software to enable a broad portfolio of applications for its hardware.

On a recent earnings call, AMD CEO Lisa Su said the company sees opportunities to deliver stronger products as a result of technology it gained when it merged with Xilinx in February.

“As one example, we are integrating Xilinx’s differentiated AI engine across our CPU product portfolio to enable industry-leading inference capabilities, with the first products expected in 2023,” Su said.

The Xilinx expertise adds to the strengths of an earlier acquisition, Pensando, which is developing intelligent, programmable software to support software-defined cloud, compute, networking, storage, and security services that could be rolled out quickly in edge, colocation, or service-provider networks. The Pensando team is putting a lot of effort into its GPUs, Su said, “So I think as a total, you should see us investing a lot more in software.”

Victor Peng, Xilinx's former CEO and now head of AMD's Adaptive and Embedded Computing Group, said the AI engine is already being deployed in a number of embedded applications and endpoints in also edge devices, like in cars.

“They are doing a lot of image recognition, all kinds of inference applications and that same architecture can be scaled and brought into the CPU product portfolio, and as we have alluded to that, it’s exactly our plan,” he said.

He added that AMD is also working on the unified overall software to enable the broad portfolio, but especially in AI. He said there will be more discussion on the subject at the Financial Analyst Day on June 9.

AMD’s rival in the GPU space, Nvidia, has made a massive investment in software. Many analysts point out that Nvidia doesn’t consider itself a hardware company but rather a software company, and reportedly have five times as many software developers as hardware developers on staff.

So AMD needs to play catch-up, and catch-up is what is looking to do.

A good quarter for revenues

As for the financial results, five years ago, reading a quarterly statement from AMD was about as pleasant as reading an obituary, but that has changed.

For the first quarter, it reported sales growth of 70% year-over-year to a record $5.89 billion in the first quarter, and AMD forecasts second-quarter revenue of between $6.3 billion to $6.7 billion. That’s remarkable because Q1 and Q2 tend to be slower quarters for chip companies like Intel and Nvidia. Enterprise sales tend to be scattered and at the mercy of release cycles, but consumer sales are tied to Christmas and back to school, so Q3 and Q4 are big quarters while Q1 and Q2 is when things taper off. But not here.

For the six weeks of Q1 that Xilinx was a part of the company, it contributed $559 million in revenue and is on track to contribute $1 billion in the next quarter. AMD has increased their revenue forecast for the year to about $26.3 billion for the year. Five years ago they were lucky to get $4 billion.


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