AMD’s COVID-19 Fund: Fighting World Problems The Right Way

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We’ve been having an unprecedented number of significant disasters.  Massive fires, weather events, wars, and, of course, the latest Pandemic.  Companies want to help, and, for many, the only thing they can think to do is donate money.  But I recall a discussion when Bill Gates left Microsoft and went to work running his foundation.  One of the Professors commenting on the move pointed out that had he stayed and instead pivoted Microsoft to help address global problems, he’d have made more progress.   Bill was the wealthiest person in the world at that time and disagreed; still, Microsoft’s reach and power did exceed anything he had personally.   And most CEOs aren’t even in the top 100 wealthiest people and don’t have a well-funded foundation to back them up, so, for them, their company is the most capable as well.  

Lisa Su is demonstrating this with AMD’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak.  Instead of either quitting and fighting this without her company or just donating money, she uses AMD as a force multiplier and spinning up AMD resources and partners to fight the Pandemic.  As a result, AMD is making a huge difference.  Let’s explore that difference this week.  


AMD’s COVID-19 HPC Fund

This fund was set up to provide research institutions with the computational power needed to accelerate the research to find solutions to mitigate or eliminate the Pandemic.  This effort isn’t just limited to COVID-19 but includes other diseases with which the world is struggling. 

The level of effort is significant and included $15M in high-performance computing systems, which nearly doubles the capacity of the “Corona” system at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.  This system is being used to provide additional molecular modeling, critical to identifying remedies, and cures for COVID-19.  

This second round of AMD-donated capacity is being installed now and expected to be operational in Q4.  This capacity will be critical to those who are fighting the Virus.  To date, the AMD COVID-19 HPC fund has donated computing systems or cloud-based computing capacity to Cambridge University, Carnegie Mellon, GENCI / French National High-Performance Computing Agency, Harvard Children’s Hospital, High-Performance Computing Center (HLRS) / the University of Stuttgart, MIT, NYU, CSIR Fourth Paradigm Institute in India, Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ), Rice, Stanford School of Medicine, Texas State University, The University of British Columbia, The University of Texas at Austin, UCLA, University of Arkansas, University of Toronto, University of Trento, University of Vermont, Virginia Commonwealth University, and Washington University.

This program is collectively a substantial effort and will help reduce future deaths from this Virus and set up a faster response to future viruses and particularly Pandemics.  Many of us will own our lives with effort like this.  


Best Practice

But what this effort showcases is a best practice for any company providing a product or service.  Often the company’s capability is a force multiplier for any donation.  A transportation company’s transportation services can have a more significant impact than their cash.  A manufacturing company (as we saw with the emergency efforts surrounding ventilators, can be far more powerful, providing manufacturing capacity than money.  Even a financial company may be more effective, facilitating, protecting, and overseeing donations than donating only cash.  And, of course, as this effort showcases, a computing company can be far more effective in donating computing capacity than cash alone.  $15M in cash would be insignificant against a problem of this magnitude, while $15M in HPC computing power could make the difference of life or death for many.  


Wrapping Up:

It is incredible to me how companies have stepped up here in the US to fight this Virus without much government direction.  Efforts like AMDs will be at the heart of any eventual cure, and these efforts are setting the foundation for a far faster response next time this happens.   Companies often take the easy path and donate money, but the hands dilute that money, and that approach becomes a relatively inefficient way to deal with a problem like this.  But donating experience, technology, and capability is far more potent because it comes with the force multiplier of its core power.  

AMD, an impressive list of other companies, is carrying a lot of this COVID load, and I, for one, want to thank CEOs like Lisa Su for making this significant and significant effort.   

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