AMD Takes Aim at High-Performance PCs as Part of Larger Roadmap

By Jeffrey Burt  |  Posted 2015-05-06 Print this article Print

It will support DDR4 memory, will feature a FinFET transistor design for the 14-nanometer chips and will include a new high-bandwidth, low-latency cache system. The new AMD FX CPU will offer a 40 percent performance improvement over current chips, the company said.

The Zen design eventually will play a significant role in a range of AMD products over the next couple of years, according to Mark Papermaster, CTO and senior vice president of technology and engineering. The design will be used in chips ranging from PC chips to server processors. In addition, to meet AMD's need for continued innovation, the company already has another team working on the follow-on to Zen, which Papermaster dubbed "Zen+."

AMD also announced that its next-generation Radeon GPUs will feature HBM, a memory technology that AMD has been working on for several years and that offers three times the performance-per-watt of the current GDDR5 and a 50 percent increase in energy efficiency. The HBM technology will begin rolling out in discrete GPUs this year and will find its way into other AMD products over the next few years.

HBM essentially stacks memory chips for greater performance, power efficiency and density.

Papermaster also teased with a promise of other technologies that will come with upcoming graphics products, such as virtual reality enablement and, next year, the FinFET technology and high-performance capabilities with twice the energy efficiency of current GPUs.

Su also announced the new M300 series mobile GPUs for notebooks, adding that system makers will begin announcing new PCs with the chips in the near future.

The CEO said the data center effort "is probably the biggest single bet we're making today." AMD over the past few years has focused more on other segments of its business than it has on its x86 Opteron chips, losing significant market share to Intel. However Su and Forrest Norrod, senior vice president and general manager of the company's Enterprise, Embedded and Semi-Custom Unit, both said the market represents a $300 billion market opportunity that the company will go after with both its x86 and ARM-based processors.

Both also said they expect the server business to really begin ramping in 2016 and 2017. AMD will bring the Zen design to its Opteron product line and will follow that in 2017 with K12, a server SoC created through an ARM architecture a license. Until then, AMD will rely on the long-awaited Opteron 1100A "Seattle" SoC to kick off its ARM-based server chip efforts. Seattle is due to launch in the second half of the year, with systems from vendors ramping into 2016.

AMD officials already have made some decisions in simplifying its data center portfolio. They announced last month that the company was shedding its SeaMicro microserver business, which it had bought three years ago for $334 million. Su said the microserver market was not growing as quickly as expected, and that AMD no longer wanted to be in the systems business.

In addition, Su said AMD is ending its Project Skybridge, designed to offer socket compatibility between its x86- and ARM-based chips. Customers told AMD that they didn't need such compatibility, so AMD will focus on other projects, she said.


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