Pat Gelsinger, the CEO of Intel, is known for employing colourful words to characterize the not-so-friendly CPU rivalry between his company and AMD. In a recent interview with Bloomberg, Gelsinger reiterated that Intel had “reasserted leadership [with Alder Lake]” and that “we’re staring out the windshield, AMD is in the rear-view mirror.”
Gelsinger did agree, though, that the server industry has been hotly contested in recent years, and that AMD has proven to be a powerful opponent as it eats up market share. Gelsinger compared the battle between Intel [Xeon] and AMD [EPYC] to a “knife fight in a phone booth,” which he found amusing. While the visual of that remark is humorous in and of itself, given how painful fighting with knives in such close quarters would be, the choice of a phone booth is decidedly “old school.”
While Gelsinger admits that the Client Computer Group (i.e., Core processors) is the company’s most profitable and important business (in terms of revenue), the Data-centric Business (which includes Xeon processors) is still very profitable and important. And, as we witnessed yesterday following AMD’s Q4 2021 earnings announcement, Intel’s main competitor is on fire, with revenue up 50% year over year to $4.826 billion ($16.434 billion for the entire year). Some of the expansion is unavoidably at the expense of Intel.
AMD’s server growth also aided its gross margin, which increased to 51% in 2021. Intel, on the other hand, isn’t far behind, with a gross margin of roughly 52 percent. To illustrate how far AMD has gone since the release of Zen, consider that Intel had a 63 percent gross margin just a half-decade ago, compared to 31% for AMD.
AMD isn’t slowing down either, with third-generation EPYC Milan-X processors with 3D V-Cache technology presently sampling. According to AMD, HPC instances with 3D V-cache can boost performance by up to 80%, depending on the application. This year, the business has a strong pipeline for its Zen 4 products, including server processors like the Genoa and Bergamo that will compete with Intel’s Sapphire Rapids Xeons.
According to Mercury Research’s most recent market share data (Q3 2021), Intel still controls 75 percent of PC CPU sales, compared to 24.6 percent for AMD. In Q3 2021, Intel had an 89.8 percent dominance of the lucrative server CPU market, compared to 10.2 percent for AMD. However, the key factor to remember is that AMD’s market share in Q3 2020 was only 6.6 percent.