AMD in 2005: Coming Out of Intel's Shadow?



Intel underestimated us and their arrogance didn't allow them to take hold of what they were doing.
- Benjamin J. Williams, AMD

In 2004, Hector Ruiz (Ruiz), CEO of Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), was reflecting on how his company was faring in its battle with Intel in the 64-bit microprocessor market. Itanium I, Intel's first 64-bit microprocessor had failed. Itanium II had also elicited a lukewarm response from the market. But Opteron, AMD's 64-bit microprocessor, released in mid-2003 was still receiving strong performance reviews. By 2004, many companies such as Microsoft, IBM and HP, which had been staunch supporters of Intel, had started using Opteron. Even Sun Microsystems (Sun), a company that traditionally used its own SPARC chips, had started using Opteron. These companies saw AMD as a means to increase their market share by offering high-quality but low-priced products. As a result, by 2004, AMD had become a major supplier of microprocessors in the server market.

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Historically, AMD had ranked a distant second in PC microprocessors with a market share of about 15%, compared to Intel, which had about 80%. In the past, AMD had made inroads into Intel's market share only to see Intel strike back with steep price cuts and faster introduction of new models. As 2004 got underway, analysts wondered whether AMD was finally ready to come out of Intel's shadow.


Designed to run existing 32-bit applications and offer customers a smooth transition to 64-bit computing, Opteron promised a dramatic improvement in performance. It also reduced the total cost of ownership (TCO) . Opteron came in three versions: the 100 series (1-way), the 200 series (1 to 2-way), and the 800 series (up to 8-way).

AMD had positioned Opteron as a microprocessor with a scalable architecture designed to meet current and future business needs. Opteron was designed to scale from one to eight processors. This aided system designers by reducing the cost and complexity of building servers and workstations. It also reduced cost and increased server scalability.

One of the most important features of Opteron was HyperTransport Technology, which aimed at removing I/O bottlenecks , increased bandwidth/speed, and reduced latency . For workstation users, this meant increased graphics throughput (up to 8x AGP), quicker loading of applications and large data sets, better multi-tasking, and smoother transition across applications.

HyperTransport technology was useful for any application where high speed, low latency and scalability were necessary. This technology reduced the number of buses while providing a high-performance link for PCs, workstation and servers, as well as numerous embedded applications and highly scalable multiprocessing systems.

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