Wednesday, June 3, 2020

AMD chief: It is a very exciting time to be in high-performace computing market

Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) President and CEO Dr. Lisa Su said that it is a "very exciting time" to be in the high-performance computing market.

Speaking at the "Masters of Leadership Series” webcast, organised by Northern Virginia Technology Council (NVTC) and Consumer Technology Association, she said that Covid19 has seen difficult times across the world but what has helped is the power of computing for remote working and remote learning.

“I am very excited about where high-performance computing (HPC) is going in the future compared to where we are today. HPCs could do amazing things in solving difficult problems and making our daily lives different,” she said.

Computing is really important in certain large markets, she said and added that the PC market is worth more than $30b while the data centres market is valued at more than $30b and the gaming market is worth about $12b.

“There are really large opportunities out there and they all require more computing horsepower. We were able to do some good things during Covid19 such as providing capacity to data centres and have seen a large interest in laptops,” Su said.

Moreover, she said that households which had one PC have changed completely and people have realised that it has become one of the fundamentals of communication and connectivity.

“I am excited about how computing can do to accelerate solutions to some of the problems and we have been participating with the White House computing taskforce for pandemic research,” she said.

Pushing the envelopes of technology

AMD has donated seven petaflops of supercomputing clusters to New York University (NYU), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Rice University and these clusters utilise AMD technologies such as Epyc CPUs and Radeon Instinct GPUs to help accelerate the development of potential therapeutics and vaccines. 

“Once the Covid-19 crisis is over, the HPC systems will support future medical research. I am lucky right now that I am running an important company in technology but at the end of the day, I love building things and pushing the envelopes of technology,” Su said.

Su was born in Taiwan and her family migrated to New York when she was two years old.

“I am a New Yorker at heart,” she said and added that the thought process was there are a few companies in the US that are doing high-performance microprocessor design.

After spending eight years at Boston at MIT and a large portion of her career at IBM in building semiconductor and microelectronics, Su joined the 51-year-old AMD in 2014.

“I started in that area and wanted to be a semiconductor CEO and AMD was my dream job. My interest in semiconductors is how we can use the technology to do a lot of good things,” she said.

However, she said that what AMD is really good at is building high-performance computing with an incredible amount of horsepower in people’s hands but it takes time to build the foundation and “we took time to build the foundation and reach where we are today”.

Highest paid CEO in 2019

When asked about being the highest-paid CEO in S&P 500 companies and the first woman to top the list, she said: “It is all about opportunities and there are a lot of smart people in this world but the fact is that you not only need to be smart but you also have to be in the right place at the right time and the right circumstance”.

According to a study conducted by Associated Press and Equilar Fee Analysis Executive Company, since it began in 2011, Su earned a total of $58.5m in 2019, nearly $13m more than Discovery Inc David Zaslav, who earned $45.m, the next highest-paid male CEO.

The study found that the average compensation for female executives was $13.9m compared to $12.3m for males, although there were far fewer women than men on the list.

 “I was very lucky because I had mentors and gave me good opportunities and I was able to capitalise on these opportunities but when we look at the diversity aspect of it, we haven’t done enough as much progress there has been and still there are not enough women in the leadership positions.

“I believe that it is because opportunities are not necessarily being presented in such a way,” Su said.   

When asked about the working norms after Covid-19, she said that working norms will change and “we all talk about what the new norms might be. Some of the changes are clearer than others. One thing is clear is that we are not going to travel and we have learned that we can do a lot by using communications tools such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Cisco WebEx even though it is not quite the same as face-to-face meetings”. 

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