Most partnerships I cover seem to be in name only where the most significant progress is the announcement itself, and after it is over, nothing much seems to happen.
Both AMD and IBM tend to be different as their executive management agrees that a partnership should be more than the announcement, and both firms have a decent partnering reputation. This similarity isn’t random because AMD’s executive management mainly came from IBM, creating a great deal of similarity in creating partnerships and execution. This commonality is why I think the partnership announced this week between AMD and IBM is likely more significant than most.
Let’s talk about partnerships this week, focusing on this one between AMD and IBM on AI and HPC markets.
Building A Perfect Partnership
Coincidentally, when I worked at IBM, I worked on a partner problem at the company. The issue was that the firm was entering into too many partnerships where the partner would have to carry most of the load. This behavior was corrected, and today IBM’s number of partnerships announced per year appears to have declined while the quality of those partnerships has increased.
Still, there are always issues when the cultures and business processes between two partners may not mesh, mainly if one is significantly larger than the other.
IBM has placed significant rigor into its partnering program over time and now does a decent job monitoring and measuring the partnership, assuring that the responsibility for the effort’s success is well defined inside the company. Years ago, AMD concluded that partnering would be where they would excel in competition with Intel.
Also, both IBM and AMD view High-Performance Computing expansion as critical to their respective futures. With IBM trained executives, AMD is uniquely able to navigate IBM’s bureaucracy while IBM can communicate and collaborate better with AMD.
One area both companies are very aligned with regarding their HPC efforts is fighting COVID-19. AMD has been donating significant resources to the effort, and IBM has not only committed its most powerful supercomputer capabilities; they also recently partnered with Amazon, Google, and Microsoft to assist the White House with COVID-19 research.
This shared focus to address this massive Pandemic is part of what will undoubtedly help bind these two firms together in the future. It also promises to assure that the world will be better prepared for the next Pandemic while more quickly coming to terms with it.
Looking To The Future
From now on, expect IBM to bring its unique advances and intellectual property to HPC system designs using AMD processors and GPUs. At the same time, AMD will continue to create deeper synergies between their CPU and GPU lines targeting HPC opportunities.
Expect advances in cooling, performance per watt, and performance levels out of this partnership are both powerful and unique in the market. In some ways, these two firms may end up working better together than the old IBM Microelectronics unit inside IBM did because AMD can maintain higher volumes and economies and scale. Also, AMD won’t have to worry about fighting the internal IBM bureaucracy, and IBM executives don’t have to fear AMD is after their budgets and resources. These types of conflicts are common in large companies and often were at the core of historic IBM failures in the past.
Partnerships are hard to do well, particularly with huge companies like IBM. However, over the years, IBM has significantly improved its partnering process, and AMD differentiates with its superior partnering skills and efforts.
This partnering focus, coupled with executive teams in both IBM training firms, little product overlap, and a shared focus on HPC and recent COVID-19 mitigation efforts, should ensure this partnership will be a success. In the future, you should expect some fantastic offerings out of this effort that likely wouldn’t have existed otherwise and will not only uniquely enhance the HPC space but the efforts to mitigate this, and the next, pandemic.