AMD Enters Pivotal 2016 With Product Road Map That Must Lead to Growth
Company executives see its GPUs—both discrete graphics as well as those integrated onto the same silicon as the CPU—as key assets in many of its target areas, such as gaming and immersive computing, which includes virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). They're also important in the data center as accelerators in servers. The company in June rolled out its Fury GPUs, which were the first chips to feature AMD's new High-Bandwidth Memory (HBM) technology. HBM, developed as part of a consortium, essentially stacks memory chips for greater performance, power efficiency and density. It provides 60 percent more bandwidth than GDDR5, and a 4,096-bit memory interface. With HBM, the Fury GPUs deliver more than three times the performance-per-watt of GDDR5 while taking up significantly less surface area on the printed-circuit board. AMD officials expect to bring HBM to a wide range of products, including when the next generation of GPUs are released next year. In addition to the Fury GPUs, the company in September launched a graphics business unit, the Radeon Technologies Group (RTG), and over the past several weeks, has pushed to make developing applications on its GPU architecture easier.AMD next year also will introduce discrete graphics to FinFET devices, a move that officials expect will drive power and performance improvements. "Graphics is very strategic to us," AMD's Su said. "The combination of graphics and CPUs gives us very strong technologies" that can be applied to multiple markets. That includes chips used as accelerators to improve the parallel-processing performance of servers while keeping a lid on power consumption, an important capability in HPC and hyperscale data centers. It's an area that AMD can capitalize on, TECHnalysis' O'Donnell said. "Graphics is still a good opportunity for them," he said, including in the data center. "They're still neck-and-neck with Nvidia." AMD also is pursuing premium and corporate PCs and the data center with an aggressive game plan for its x86 processors. In the short term, that means rolling out new "Carrizo" chips that leverage the company's "Excavator" core. In September, the company unveiled the latest Pro A-Series accelerated processing units (APUs) aimed at the commercial client segment, which AMD had essentially abandoned until a couple of years ago. It's now core to the chip maker's corporate strategy. Officials are expecting steady adoption of Microsoft's Windows 10 operating system next year to accelerate the refresh of commercial PCs, though—like many industry analysts—they don't expect the overall PC market to see an upturn until 2017. That said, they expect global shipment declines next year to be less than in 2015, in which shipments are forecast to fall more than 10 percent. Hewlett-Packard at the same time announced it is using the new APUs in its new EliteBook 705 3 business notebook. HP's embrace of the chips is another example of AMD's growing presence in the space, according to John Taylor, corporate vice president of worldwide marketing at AMD. "AMD is in some compelling designs," Taylor told eWEEK. "Companies are making nine- and 10-year bets on AMD." However, what's drawing more attention is what comes next. Late next year, AMD will roll out the first of its Zen processors, which will include an entirely new x86 core that has been more than two years in the making. AMD officials expect Zen to carve the path back into high-end PCs and servers.
The company's Boltzmann Initiative offers new compilers for C++ and CUDA to help expand the use of its FirePro graphics technologies in high-performance computing (HPC) space, while RTG this month unveiled its GPUOpen program, which will give developers access to its graphics technology. The move will enable AMD to better compete against Nvidia in such markets as gaming and HPC.