Advanced Computing in the Age of AI | Saturday, December 3, 2022

AMD Reorganizes, SeaMicro Founder Takes A Break 

Chip and server maker AMD has reorganized its operations, setting the stage for a key executive who was brought in to run the company's business units to one day be chief executive officer of the company. Concurrently with the reorganization, the co-founder of the SeaMicro server unit of AMD has decided to leave the company to take a break and move on to the next challenging startup.

The reorganization elevates Lisa Su, who is 44, to the role of chief operating officer of AMD. Su was a researcher working on semiconductors at Texas Instruments and IBM before she went to work at Freescale Semiconductor as its chief technology officer, and in December 2011 was tapped to be a senior vice president and general manager of AMD's Global Business Units. This organization brought together all of the technology and manufacturing aspects of AMD's game console, PC, server, and graphics chips as well as its SeaMicro server unit. With the appointment as chief operating officer, Su is now next in line as CEO, but no one is suggesting that Rory Read, who is 52 and who took over that job in August 2011, is getting ready to retire any time soon.

Read spent 23 years working at IBM and was part of Big Blue's PC business when it was sold off to Lenovo Group in December 2004 for $1.25 billion. He then worked as president and COO at Lenovo Group after the deal was done in 2005. Read has been widely credited with getting AMD back on track with its product roadmaps, which are a little less aggressive on the server front than they had been in the past but are absolutely attainable and more predictable, too. This is something that customers value as much as innovation.

Only six months after taking the helm at AMD, Read made a bold move by spending $334 million to acquire microserver startup SeaMicro, which had more or less defined this part of the market. The SeaMicro systems combine dense server node packaging, low power consumption, and a proprietary 3D torus interconnect into a cluster that is suitable for running various Web and analytics applications at a lower total cost of ownership than using plain vanilla rack or blade servers. The SM15000 machines from SeaMicro are not for suitable for every job, of course, but the machines have found their niches and, as EnterpriseTech has previously reported, are the backbone of Verizon Terremark's latest rev of its public cloud.

When AMD bought SeaMicro, company co-founder and CEO Andrew Feldman stayed on at the company, and most recently was in charge of both the Data Center Server Solutions business unit as well as the Server CPU business unit at AMD. He has been shepherding the Opteron X86 and ARM server chips through their roadmaps as well as peddling the SeaMicro machines and their technology to partners. But this week, Feldman is stepping down from these roles, and the timing, he says, is a coincidence and not related to the reorganization.

"After seven years of chasing the dragon, I am taking a break and recharging my batteries," Feldman tells EnterpriseTech. "The SeaMicro group at AMD is stronger than ever, and we have our processors lined up. I don't have a job lined up. What we do in Silicon Valley, the work-life balance is very sequential and you end up with a big debt to your family and you have to stop and pay it back." To that end, Feldman is taking some time off to work around the house and take some much-needed vacation; in the new year, he will consider the next challenge and the next startup he wants to bring into being.

AMD is looking for a replacement both internally and outside of the company to replace Feldman, and in the meantime, Su will be the acting lead of the Enterprise, Embedded, and Semi-Custom Business Group that is being formed today. Chief sales officer John Byrne has been tapped to be senior vice president and general manager of its Computing and Graphics Business Group, reporting to Su.

"Lisa has been a driving force in AMD's recent success, and as COO she will expand on this foundation and lead a broader organization designed to more quickly adapt to industry shifts, streamline execution and decision making, and create even greater value for our customers," Read said in a statement. "John's years of PC industry experience and successful track record of strengthening AMD's customer relationships make him ideally suited to take on additional responsibility and lead one of our new business groups."

Su continues to report to Read, who has the titles of president and CEO. Bruce Claflin, who has been a director since 2003 and chairman since 2009, remains in that latter role. Claflin is also a former IBMer, having spent 22 years at Big Blue and notably leading the development of the ThinkPad laptop.

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