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This Huge Opportunity Can Supercharge AMD’s Growth

By Harsh Chauhan – May 26, 2020 at 8:38AM

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The chipmaker's growing clout in the data center business could be a big deal in the long run.

Advanced Micro Devices (AMD 0.80%) is showing no signs of slowing down despite the adverse impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on businesses and economies around the globe.

The chipmaker delivered terrific growth for the first quarter of 2020, and expects to sustain its momentum for the remainder of the year. AMD's guidance indicates that its revenue could jump between 20% and 30% in 2020. However, it won't be surprising to see AMD surpass its own expectations thanks to the massive opportunity in the data center business and its growing clout against Intel (INTC -0.85%).

Blocks with arrows pointing upward.

Image Source: Getty Images.

AMD is making notable inroads into Intel's data center kingdom

According to Mercury Research, AMD held 4.5% of the server processor market at the end of 2019. There are rumors that the chipmaker is aiming to attain 10% market share in server CPUs (central processing units) by the end of 2020 -- and seems to be making solid progress toward its goal.

There have been a couple of solid developments for AMD in the data center space of late.

First, Lenovo launched a new server platform earlier this month that could accommodate two of AMD's EPYC server chips. Earlier, Lenovo's servers could accommodate only one AMD chip, which means that the new platform will be capable of handling heavier tasks in the data center.

This win could give AMD's server business a nice shot in the arm. Lenovo is the fourth-largest company by shipments in the server market with a share of 6.9%, according to IDC.

The next big win came when arch-rival NVIDIA decided to deploy AMD's 64-core EPYC processors into the DGX A100 artificial intelligence (AI) system. What's interesting to note is that NVIDIA had relied on Intel's Xeon processors for the first two DGX models, but decided to switch to AMD for want of better performance.

Charlie Boyle, the vice president of DGX Systems at NVIDIA, spelled out the reasons behind choosing AMD for the latest system (via CRN):

To keep the GPUs in our system supplied with data, we needed a fast CPU with as many cores and PCI lanes as possible. The AMD CPUs we use have 64 cores each, lots of PCI lanes, and support PCIe Gen4.

Additionally, AMD's EPYC processors support the latest peripheral component interconnect express (PCIe) standard -- PCIE 4.0. Intel's Xeon processors, on the other hand, support PCIe 3.0, which carries half the bandwidth of the latest generation standard.

What's working?

This is another instance of AMD scoring a win over Intel thanks to the advantage it enjoys on the CPU technology curve. AMD's current generation EPYC server chips are based on the 7-nanometer platform, while Intel's Xeon processors are stuck on the 14nm process node.

A smaller process node gives AMD the capability of packing more power into its chips while keeping power consumption low at the same time. That's because the transistors in a smaller process node are packed closely together, allowing them to perform a greater number of calculations while keeping a handle on the heat generated.

What's more, a smaller process node allows a manufacturer to pack in more cores into each chip and also keep manufacturing costs down. All these advantages seem to have played into AMD's favor.

The good part is that these advantages look all set to continue as AMD plans to release updated third generation EPYC server processors later this year that will be based on a refined 7nm process. Intel, on the other hand, aims to up its game by launching Xeon chips based on the 10nm Ice Lake architecture later this year.

It remains to be seen how that battle turns out, but AMD plans to go up another level in 2022 when server chips based on a 5nm process are expected to come out.

Big financial gains in the cards

In all, AMD is likely to keep hammering into Intel's server processor business with its product development moves. That could give it a big revenue boost in the long run, as AMD expects the server CPU market to be worth $19 billion in 2023.

Last year, the data center business supplied 15% of AMD's total revenue of $6.7 billion -- amounting to $1 billion. This includes revenue from AMD's Radeon Instinct data center graphics cards.

Now, it is difficult to point out AMD's exact server CPU sales last year. But, if AMD manages to get to 10% server CPU market share and hold on to the same in the long run, its EPYC sales alone could double the size of the company's data center business by 2023 (assuming AMD's $19 billion total addressable market estimate holds true).

Throw in the potential growth of the company's PC and console businesses, and it becomes easy to see why AMD could remain a top semiconductor pick for a long time to come.

Harsh Chauhan has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends NVIDIA. The Motley Fool recommends Intel. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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Stocks Mentioned

Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. Stock Quote
Advanced Micro Devices, Inc.
$66.83 (0.80%) $0.53
Intel Corporation Stock Quote
Intel Corporation
$26.74 (-0.85%) $0.23
NVIDIA Corporation Stock Quote
NVIDIA Corporation
$123.44 (0.95%) $1.16
Lenovo Group Stock Quote
Lenovo Group
$14.68 (-1.38%) $0.20

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