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Grasby takes on the world

Word has reached the KitGuru newsdesk that AMD hardman Darren Grasby, former head of graphics giant Connect 3D, will be taking over the Worldwide Channel VP role recently vacated by John Byrne. KitGuru trains its spy satellite at Austin, Texas to try and understand what this means.

Grasby, who honed his highly competitive nature in the world of no-holds-barred professional rugby, has an enormous amount of channel experience as well as a deep understanding of how AMD works internally, so – on that basis – would seem to be an ideal choice.

During the years where AMD seemed destined to post $4Bn in revenue, no matter how the market was doing or how many new products the chip-giant launched – there was a distinct feeling that AMD was more focused on process, procedure and perception than pure profit.

The ethos of ‘take no risks and don’t risk getting sacked’ seems to be well and truly over, with a succession of key personnel changes throughout the company. While it’s true that the board of any company likes the idea of ‘steady boys steady’, you only need to look over at ‘Roller Coaster Huang’ and the enthralled masses of nVidia shareholders, to see that people are seriously attracted to investment thrills.

To put it another way, 30 years’ of blissful marriage mean nothing to investors hungry for a passionate return on investment. They love a bit of dynamism and, recently, that’s exactly what they’ve been getting.

AMD Vs Intel - the golden days of the channel battle

Grasby has been heard to comment that AMD’s key advantage in the market is its ability to ‘jab and move’ – rather than standing toe-to-toe with the world’s biggest semi-conductor manufacturer. Strange analogy coming from a bloke who tends to block out the sun whenever he’s around – but you can see what he means. Compared to Phenom II and Bulldozer, AMD’s Fusion-class products do seem to be a mosquito that Intel can’t quite swat.

One thing is for certain, the role that Grasby has inherited is way more complicated than the channel model was 10 years ago. In the days when Dell was a 100% Intel house, the channel was a simple place. Multi-nationals bought Pentium 4 processors from Intel and the local guys bought AMD Athlons and, later, FX processors.  At that time, every country had strong local system builders – brands capable of buying tens of thousands of processors a year each.

Around the launch of the 5000+, things started to go wrong. AMD finally managed to open up the major accounts, but to make that happen – Dell got most of the stock and the channel went away cursing AMD.

Roll the years forward and it seems that the channel now accepts that AMD sells to everyone. Indeed, the channel would like to have an alternative to Intel once more. In that respect, the channel job is now easier.

So how else has the channel sales role changed?

Well, the big local system builders have all but died. They have been replaced by loads of smaller system builders and resellers who sell kits and bundles. In that respect, the Worldwide Channel Sales VP job is significantly harder.

Kudos to Sara Yirell and the CRN team for selecting Grasby as one of their ‘A List 2011’ people at last year’s Channel Awards event. Incisive stuff.

Darren's the sort of bloke you'd owe money to and not pay, right?

KitGuru says: To succeed, Grasby will need to find strategies that allow AMD to engage with a channel market that’s a 1000 miles wide and an inch thick. No doubt his experience in running a global 3D graphics brand will come in handy as Grasby prepares to take on the world of worldwide channel sales. Only one question left – Who will fill the size 14 rugby boots that Grasby has just vacated?

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