Indian–founded American Megatrends remains a global BIOS leader, as it extends its innovation to cloud computing, virtualization and mobile platforms. Anand Parthasarathy meets AMI’s US-based founder-CEO S. Shankar on his recent visit to India.
When Chennai-born, Indian Institute of Science ( Madras) and New Brunswick University (US) alumnus Subramonian Shankar returned to Atlanta, Georgia, to found American Megatrends in 1985, the personal computer was so new that few owners understood what exactly the Basic Input Output System or BIOS did, to boot up the computer. Yet in just 4 years AMI was recognized as one of America’s fastest growing tech companies – and in fairly short order, it became the world’s number one manufacturer of BIOS firmware. Customers, by and large don’t recall the brand name even today : It flashes by on the PC screen for a fraction of a second, every time one switches on the machine.
Like the BIOS itself, Shankar, still happily at the helm as AMI’s President and CEO, prefers to be largely invisible -- and my meeting with him on a recent visit to Bangalore and India, was one of his rare meetings with the media. While retaining its leadership position in the BIOS business, AMI has been steered by Shankar to broaden its portfolio to include firm ware for storage networks, embedded and ultra mobile computing. It was the first to develop and build a motherboard for Intel’s Quad Xeon processor; the first to build support in the BIOS for the universal Serial Bus or USB, today, the most ubiquitous of all PC and mobile phone interfaces .
More recently AMI has joined with VM Ware to create its own virtualization solution, Athens, which facilitates the use of multiple operating systems on a single platform while saving power by suspending unused OS environments. Its Mobile Applications Group is also one of the first to come up with software solutions which help to quickly boot up a slew of applications running under Microsoft’s Windows Mobile or Google’s Android. Server and client management is another area that AMI has cannily embraced, counting computer platform clients like Acer and IBM for its management firmware. AMI engineers are working to extend and optimise these solutions for the burgeoning cloud computing environment.
Today, says Shankar, AMI has the bulk of its creative people -- over 600 – outside US, in centres like India, Taiwan, Korea, Hong Kong and Germany.
The India centre which dates back to 1994, is headquartered in Chennai, on the Mahabalipuram shore -- an area that subsequently became the city’s IT Corridor. It has had a hand in almost all of AMI’s product launches – and in addition has done end-to-end design and development for some ‘made for India’ products in areas like vehicle tracking. explained Sridharan Mani, CEO of AMI India. The Indian public sector is also a customer for some mission-critical single chip solutions crafted in AMI’s chip making subsidiary Perftrends .
Out of public sight, so many of its below-the-hood tools, maybe --but as Shankar is proud to say, a good chunk of ingenuity that fuels AMI’s cool tools for the new era of mobile and cloud computing can be fairly said to be ‘ made in India’ – like the man himself.
AMI India home page: http://www.amiindia.co.in/
Perftrends home page http://www.perftrends.com
September 26 2010