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Zen Q&A with AMD's CTO: 'We’re bringing competition back to high-performance x86'

Gordon Mah Ung, Mark Hachman | Aug. 19, 2016
AMD is pretty much betting the company on the new Zen core. We wanted to know more.

But we did it—and I mentioned this in the presentation—by increasing the resources in that execution pipeline. So if you are running single-thread, you get the benefit of these additional resources. It’s a versatile core; it’s going to play well to single-threaded and multithreaded applications.

The AM4 socket will support both your APUs as well as Summit Ridge?

Correct. This will not be a new socket. 

You’ve mentioned that you’ve proven the 14nm FinFET technology out on your “Polaris” GPU. Can you give us an idea what the manufacturing yields have been for Polaris, whether they’ve met demand, and what we might expect for Zen?

We’ve had great demand for Polaris. We met our build expectations and then turned out and sold out after that with Polaris. That ramp is in full flight, and what I’ll tell you is that 14nm is meeting our expectations, and our plans, and I can tell you that we expect it to do the same for this SoC as it ramps into the Summit Ridge and Naples products.

You have a joint venture in China, sharing x86 technology for server SoCs. Will you be sharing the Zen “Naples” technology with them as well?

We didn’t share the specifics of that agreement, but it is a joint venture, targeting server.

And does your IP relationship with Intel allow for this?

There is no impediment on the joint venture that we formed.

Hitting a 40 percent improvement in instructions per clock is like throwing a football two miles. Did you really achieve that?

We did it. We’ve demonstrated it. We just went public with it at the [May 2015] analyst day. That target was actually set at design launch.

Custom microprocessor designs are long and arduous. And the triple constraints of what I shared—performance, throughput, and power efficiency—they play against each other. It’s very hard to, in fact, to achieve all three. But that’s what the team pulled off. It’s just a maniacal execution by the team.

I’ve just seen so many products whose performance targets are announced, and upon release, it’s like, whoa.

The industry is littered with missed microprocessor targets.

You’re discussing this next week at the Hot Chips conference, and one of the questions that’s always asked is the size of the die and the transistor count. What are they?

We’re not releasing the transistor count.

In the last few years, it seems like AMD has become more of a semi-custom company, with the APUs you’ve supplied for the game consoles really helping keep AMD afloat. With Zen, do you expect to return to a more PC-specific focus?

We’ve actually been clear—our business objective is a mix. No change in that strategy. Now the arsenal is strengthened. We can go after that high-performance desktop. We can re-enter that x86 server market. That’s growth on our AMD product side. Now that new CPU—that Zen core and our rejuvenated graphics roadmap, those are IPs, those are arsenals that can be tapped into future semi-custom.


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