AMD’s SeaMicro Powers Verizon’s Cloud Compute and Storage Services

By Charles King, Pund-IT, Inc.

Customer testimonials play an odd role in many IT industry press releases. At first glance, they offer proof that technologies are actually being used successfully as advertised, lending credence to vendors’ sometimes lofty go-to-market claims. But even the most enthusiastic clients tend to guarded for fear that they may injure relationships with other vendors or negate whatever competitive advantages a new technology affords them.

This point makes AMD’s recent announcement of its adoption by and collaboration with Verizon exceptional. Not only is Verizon leveraging AMD’s Sea Micro SM15000 systems in its new cloud computing and storage services, but the two companies also detailed the features they co-developed for the SeaMicro platform. Some of these enable powerful capabilities that are unusual or even unique in the public cloud marketplace.

That singularity may, in fact, be part of the reason for the companies’ transparency. For most enterprise data center owners (who are among the world’s most conservative consumers), new technologies are typically guilty until proven innocent. Corporate resistance to broad public cloud adoption—outside of a few targeted use cases, like DevOps and endpoint back-up—is a case in point.

Not that concerns about cloud services are silly or unreasonable. The fact is that many cloud providers’ answers to common questions, including the quality of security of multi-tenancy environments, how storage and network QOS is guaranteed and whether compute and memory are over- or under-provisioned, are often found wanting. So long as that’s the case, public cloud services will remain a limited option for many or most enterprise IT organizations.

That AMD and Verizon are aiming to proactively address and quell those concerns is both understandable and laudable. The remarkably fine-grained system configuration and performance specifications supported by AMD’s SM15000 systems will allow Verizon to promise and deliver services specifically tailored for individual businesses and applications. Robust firewall and network policy features should reassure even the most security-conscious clients. Plus, enhanced provisioning and management capabilities can help support both better customer experience and attractive pricing options.

If AMD’s systems deliver as advertised, they will likely give Verizon’s new Cloud Computing and Cloud Storage services a leg-up among critical enterprise customers. This would obviously benefit the company financially, but it could also reshuffle attitudes toward and markets for public cloud solutions. The real test will be how well, how soon and how directly Verizon is able to translate the qualities of the SeaMicro platform into benefits for its own corporate customers.

AMD also stands to benefit from the deal. How the financial side will play out is currently a bit murky, because neither party is saying just how many SM15000 systems are being deployed at various Verizon’s data centers. But if the new services catch on, additional, possibly substantial sales are likely to follow. That will certainly be good, practical news for AMD, which has had its share of struggles over the past few years.

But it will also qualify as a tangible validation of the company’s sometimes seemingly counter-intuitive strategic moves under CEO Rory Read and his management team. The SeaMicro deal was AMD’s first major acquisition after Read joined the company, and it frankly confused the heck out of many in the industry who couldn’t figure out what a faltering silicon vendor wanted with a micro-server player.

As things have shaken out since then and competitors, including Intel, have purchased or developed analogous technologies, the strategy around SeaMicro became clearer. Plus, related AMD efforts, such as its plans to develop Opteron processors based on the ARM architecture, suggest that Read and company are comfortable playing a long game of their own rather than simply following the lead of competitors.

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