The Evolution of the Datacenter

I’m a hands-on guy and hobbyist when it comes to technology. Twenty years ago, I was perhaps an outlier ‘nerd,’ but today consumers of all levels are innovating technology and customizing applications to meet their unique needs. The “maker” community is vibrant. Students are now excited to be in STEM programs and it’s ‘cool’ to race robots. Open source software and hardware projects are democratizing and accelerating innovation. Grade school kids are writing cell-phone apps; 3D printers and incredibly powerful microcontrollers are becoming common. The uptake of technology innovation at the consumer level is unprecedented.  10746_Graphic_Forrest_Norrod_1200x600_R2 (002).png

Likewise, the datacenter is undergoing radical change, driven by the demand from consumers and cloud servers, and enabled by open source development.  The traditional tower tucked in a corner humming away and hosting everyone’s e-mail and files is being quickly supplemented or replaced by cloud hosting.

These macro trends changing server dynamics are well known by insiders, but bear repeating:

  • Virtualization is decoupling users, operating systems and applications from the hardware underneath; containers are taking this a step further by enabling a massive number of microservices through dynamic resource allocation.
  • Delivery of IT as a service has made the mega datacenter and the Cloud driving forces in technology innovation.

The growth of off-premise IT infrastructure means companies with tens, hundreds, thousands and tens of thousands of employees may not own a single server. They lease their infrastructure, their applications, and their IT services, often from facilities thousands of miles away. Billion dollar businesses serve millions of customers simultaneously via server farms the size of several football fields. And, protecting consumer data is a number one concern touching every part of the ecosystem.

These trends and others are important to chip providers like AMD that must account for these changes in order to secure the market. At the processor level, datacenter innovation is leading toward some simple tenets:

  1. Data Security is Priority One. Securing data while work is being done is the emerging frontier of data security. Utilizing hardware for encrypting memory and virtual machines is the cutting edge of locking out unauthorized access.
  2. Processor Cores Matter. In a world of cloud computing, being able to deliver more useful work across more cores and their supporting resources equals more efficient provisioning of services to more users and lower TCO. Simple as that.
  3. Single Socket CPU Platforms Rising. Thanks to the move to more advanced chip manufacturing processes and the availability of more transistors, a single SoC (1P) server can now fill the need for many of today’s 2P server platforms. This is great news for both on-premises and off-premises customers of IT hardware.
  4. Heterogeneous Systems go Mainstream. GPUs and other accelerators supporting the CPU will become fundamental building blocks of computing. A host of new applications incorporating deep neural networks and machine learning, artificial intelligence, virtual and augmented reality will be supported in the datacenter by combinations of GPUs, CPUs and FPGAs.

In August, AMD demonstrated its upcoming “Naples” processor for the first time. This 32-core, 64-thread CPU signals AMD’s re-entry back into the high-performance server market and our intention to once again be a significant player in the datacenter.  “Naples” is built around the new, ground up “Zen” x86 core that was 4 years in the making, with exceptional memory and I/O capability and an industry-leading security solution.  With 40 percent more instructions per clock expected, and simultaneous multithreading for the first time in an AMD server processor, we are very excited about the prospects for “Naples.”

As we look forward to launching “Naples” in the first half of this year, I and my team will be sharing more about AMD’s vision for the datacenter. It is designed with these transformative changes in mind. We look forward to starting a dialogue in the industry about choice and competition, the role of our products in that equation, and the partners who will help us change the dynamics of an industry. I hope you will join us!

Forrest Norrod is Senior Vice President and  General Manager of the Enterprise, Embedded and Semi-Custom Business Group at AMD. His postings are his own opinions and may not represent AMD’s positions, strategies or opinions. Links to third party sites are provided for convenience and unless explicitly stated, AMD is not responsible for the contents of such linked sites and no endorsement is implied.


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