One of the things to jump out of the product-heavy financial analyst day was the ‘New AMD’ approach to component design which means the next two generations of both the Zen processor and the two GPUs after the AMD Vega are already being worked on.
The first gen Zen’s not bad either, topping our pick of the best gaming CPUs to build your next rig around.
Mark Papermaster, AMD’s chief tech officer, took to the stage where Raja Koduri introduced their first Vega card, the Radeon Vega Frontier Edition, and Jim Anderson teased us with the 16-core, 32-thread Ryzen Threadripper processors, and explained how they were going to maintain the momentum of this year. The main thrust is they’re going to keep on iterating two generations ahead for both their new graphics and processor architectures.
I mean, obviously Zen 3 isn’t in the fabs yet, being squished out in skimpy CPU wafers, though AMD’s manufacturing buddies, Global Foundries, are expecting to be able to deliver early 7nm production runs in 2018. But the idea is they’re now using ‘leapfrogging design teams’ to ensure that at least two generations of a product are being worked on at any given time.
“We’re well into the design of our next generations,” explained Papermaster. “The New AMD will be working on shipping a current CPU, and developing the next two generations, at any point in time. That’s our commitment to our customers.”
It means the team responsible for getting the initial Ryzen chips out the door have transferred straight over to creating the 7nm second-generation Zen architecture while a secondary design team has been playing leapfrog, concurrently designing the third-generation of AMD’s Zen CPUs to come with a refreshed 7nm+ lithography.
Quite who’s looking after the 14nm+ Zen refresh on the CPU roadmap we don’t know, but I still have this lovely image in my head of a bunch of AMD engineers in bunny suits larking about the design labs indulging in playground games as some kind of new-age productivity aid.
This ‘New AMD’ design ethos is also being used on the GPU side too. “We’re doing the exact same across our graphics roadmap,” said Papermaster. “Polaris last year, Vega architecture coming this June. Already the Navi next-generation design is well along as well as the next-generation beyond Navi. The New AMD is focused on simply being the bankable supplier with sustained innovation.”
Given the size of AMD in comparison with Intel and Nvidia it might be hard to believe they’re capable of keeping up with both the big boys of the CPU and GPU worlds, but Raja Koduri discounted such concerns.
“People ask us, ‘Nvidia, Intel have so much investment in these areas, how are you going to compete?’ You know, we don’t need a lot of people,” he explained. “We don’t need a lot of money. We just need the right six people, the right eight engineers.”
This ‘New AMD’ sounds like a markedly different beast from the somewhat low-key company I’ve been used to. And I’ve gotta say I’m rather loving that.