Verizon chooses AMD SeaMicro for new cloud services

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AMD’s early 2012 purchase of SeaMicro for $334 million may be starting to pay off for the chipmaker, with the news that US carrier Verizon is to launch a new range of cloud services for customers based on SeaMicro’s low-power servers.

In fact, Verizon intends to use AMD SeaMicro to build out several data centres, using potentially thousands of AMD’s SeaMicro SM15000 energy-efficient servers. The telco announced its plans for Verizon Cloud - an infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) offering - last week, with a public beta launch set for the fourth quarter of this year. At that time, few details were given about the underlying technology involved.

This Monday, however, AMD announced that Verizon will be placing its bets on SeaMicro servers, a move that poses an obvious threat to more mainstream server vendors.

AMD unveiled the SM15000 box back in September 2012 with much talk about the machine’s density: executives at the time fanfared the SM15000’s ability to pack 256 CPUs (both AMD and non-AMD chips) into a single rack, as well as its ‘programmability’ and its modular architecture, which means that CPU, storage and networking resources can be separately upgraded without creating problems of interdependency.

In the lead up to to this deal - for over two years, in fact, and well before the company’s acquisition by AMD - engineers from SeaMicro have worked with Verizon to take its technology “one step further”, according to AMD’s official announcement of the deal.

The new capabilities they have introduced include the introduction of fine-grained server configuration options that enable servers to be more picky about how they size virtual machine (VM) instances; in other words, not just ‘small’, ‘medium’ and ‘large’. Verizon can also share disks across multiple server instances, versus requiring each VM to have its own dedicated drive.

“AMD co-developed additional hardware and software technology on the SM 15000 server that provides unprecedented performance and best-in-class reliability backed by enterprise-level service agreements,” says the company’s statement.

In a flush of hyberbole, it continues: “The combination of these technologies, co-developed by AMD and Verizon ushers in a new era of enterprise-class cloud services by enabling a higher level of control over security and performance SLAs. With this technology underpinning the new Verizon Cloud Compute and Verizon Cloud Storage, enterprise customers can for the first time confidently deploy mission-critical systems in the public cloud.

That’s a fairly debatable statement - but what is certainly true is that this deal is a powerful endorsement of SeaMicro’s micro-server approach. It’s almost certainly the biggest deal that SeaMicro’s ever brought in, which is good news for its owner. And it sends out an significant warning shot to other server vendors that commodity boxes may not be the de facto choice for building cloud infrastructure for much longer.

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