Tag: zen

AMD’s Zen will be branded Ryzen

rizen-300x300AMD’s Zen will have a brand which sounds suspiciously like a drug for erectile dysfunction, a chemical weapon extracted from caster beans or a gospel group

The Ryzen brand will be applied to desktop and mobile variants. It had been formerly known as Summit Ridge. AMD has been telling the world that Ryzen is pronounced Rye-Zen (like horizon, without the “ho”). It has not said what the Rye means, but tired and emotional hacks suggested that it might be inspired by Jack Daniels – as indeed so are they.

Zen-based processors will target desktops, servers, and mobiles device, but the first wave of products will be targeted at the performance desktop market, where gamers and VR continue to spur growth. PC gaming hardware is predicted for 35 percent growth from 2015 to 2020, and VR-capable PCs are predicted to grow by a factor of 10 by 2020. Interest in eSports continues to skyrocket as well.

AMD has disclosed that one of the high-end options in the initial Ryzen line-up will feature eight cores (16 threads with SMT) and at minimum a 3.4 GHz base clock, with higher turbo frequencies. That processor will have 20MB of cache – 4MB of L2 and 16MB of L3. AMD is also hyping up what it is calling SenseMI technology. AMD’s SenseMI is a set of sensing and adapting technologies, including what AMD is calling “an artificial intelligence network” inside every Zen processor. There are five main features of SenseMI that include Pure Power, Precision Boost, and Extended Frequency Range (or XFR), along with the neural net prediction algos and smart prefetcher.

In fact, there is not that much exciting in SenseMI – it is just an updated branch predictor, prefetcher, and power and control logic in Zen. It might have some sexed up algorithms but it is not the ground breaking technology it is claimed.

AMD said that the AM4 platform for Ryzen will be have all the usual gubbins you expect to see on a modern PC enthusiast platform. AM4 motherboards will use DDR4 memory and feature PCIe Gen 3 connectivity, and support for USB 3.1 Gen 2, NVMe, and SATA Express.

Another thing that Ryzen will have is something called Pure Power which senses what’s going on with the processor’s current workload and provides a closed-loop control system to scale performance and power, over what AMD is calling its Infinity Fabric.

This monitors temperatures, frequencies, and voltage, and adaptively controls each element to optimize performance and power usage.

Another thing that Ryzen will have is something called Infinity Fabric which is interconnect technology used to link the individual bits of IP within a processor and the processor to other IO.

AMD wants this tech to scale its products, beyond moving to new process nodes, increase performance and efficiency, scale bandwidth, improve latency and the chip’s QoS.

Infinity Fabric consists of two key elements, a scalable control fabric and a scalable data fabric. The scalable control fabric has all the central control elements, with small remote elements that are dispersed in each different block of the SoC.

However the early indications suggest that Ryzen is rather good and should put the fear of Jehovah into Intel – particularly if AMD keeps the price down.

Why Kaby Lake and Zen is Windows 10 only

Windows 10Microsoft raised a few eyebrows when it announced that only Windows 10 will support Intel’s and AMD’s next-generation processor microarchitectures – codenamed Kaby Lake and Zen.

It appears that there are a few features on Kaby Lake and  Zen that require significant updates to Windows 10 to optimally function.

Kaby Lake uses Intel’s Speed Shift technology that make it possible to change power states more quickly than Skylake. Because Kaby Lake can make Speed Shift transitions faster, 7th Gen Core processors based on the architecture can increase and decrease clocks quickly. Speed Shift is hardware enabled but it uses the OS to function properly.

Intel’s Turbo Boost Technology 3.0  with Turbo Boost Max 3.0 technology improves single-thread performance by identifying the fastest core on a particular processor die and prioritising critical workloads for that core. This pushes up the processor’s frequency when needed and  workloads are also directed to the fastest possible core available. Support for that technology needs to be in the operating system.

AMD’s Zen-based processors have fine-grained clock gating with multi-level regions throughout the chip. Zen will bring in newer Simultaneous Multi-Threading technology for AMD chips. Microsoft will  have to make updates to the Windows kernel and system scheduler, which is more involved than a driver update. Vole did something similar to add proper support for Bulldozer-based processors with Windows 7.

So as far as AMD, Microsoft and Intel are concerned getting rid of support for older systems makes perfect sense. You can’t lock these chips into something which was released seven years ago. Windows 8 is similar to Windows 10 but about as popular as the Boston Strangler it is just not worth trying to update.

While corporate customers might like to remain on Windows 7 and incorporate next-gen hardware into their infrastructure, there will not be many of them. Older versions of Windows and alternative operating systems will still install and run on Kaby Lake and Zen, but they just won’t do the cool stuff.

AMD shows off Polaris-based Radeon RX 470 and RX 460

4528082378_4d5b9fb99e_zAMD has been showing off its latest Polaris based GPUs at E3 2016.

For those who came in late, Polaris is AMD’s bright new hope in the GPU world – a bit like Zen is for the CPU, only it appears to exist whereas Zen doesn’t.

THe Radeon RX 470 and RX 460  join the recently announced RX 480 as part of the company’s new Polaris family. Polaris is AMD’s newest GPU micro-architecture, which is based on the 14nm FinFet production process.

AMD is not telling us the prices of its new GPU, but it is possible to have stab at it. The  RX 480 is made for 1440p gaming, and the RX 470 will focus on delivering a “refined, power-efficient HD gaming” experience. The RX 460 will offer a “cool and efficient solution for the ultimate e-sports gaming experience.”

The 4GB version of the RX 480 will start out at $200, it’s safe to assume that these two other cards will launch at lower price points.

AMD says the chips are extremely thin, offering a very low Z-height, and will fit into thin and light gaming notebooks.

The entire new RX line will also support a wide variety of features that include DX12, Vulkan, HDR, HDMI 2.0b, DisplayPort 1.3/1.4, and H.265 encoding/decoding.

There is no release day  but since the RX 480 is scheduled to launch on June 29 the other two should be soon after. AMD is claiming that card outperforms $500 graphics cards in VR.

GlobalFoundries fabbed AMD’s first 14nm sample – probably Zen

Zen-DogGlobalFoundries has announced that it has successfully fabbed AMD’s first 14nm sample and we think it is a Zen chip.

The fab has produced its first 14nm FinFET LPP sample for AMD. The announcement is somewhat vague as GloFlo has not really explained what it means by successful.

It could mean that AMD has received working samples back from the fab which do not catch fire and work. This does not mean that they have got yields up to economic viability yet. However the message appears to be that the pair are making progress on bringing up 14nm manufacturing at GlobalFoundries ahead of mass production in 2016.

The sample chips were fabbed on 14nm Low Power Plus (LPP), which is Samsung’s and GlobalFoundries’ second-generation 14nm FinFET design. It is a refined process designed to offer roughly 10 percent  better performance than earlier designs.

AMD has taped out several 14LPP designs for GlobalFondries and its future largely depends on Zen.  To be fair AMD is refusing to say what chip was successfully fabbed but given that it is GloFlo it is likely to be a CPU/APU and the time line suggests it is an early Zen chip.

GlobalFoundries’ production plans call for their 14LPP process to enter the early ramp-up phase this quarter, with full-scale production starting in 2016. Similarly, in today’s announcement AMD reiterated that they will be releasing products in 2016 based on GlobalFoundries’ 14LPP process.


AMD lays off staff

AMD Analyst Day '15_2Troubled fabless chipmaker AMD is to lay off 500 people, or five percent of its global workforce.

The outfit is facing weak demand for its chips and is falling behind its rivals Intel and Nvidia it its key markets.

AMD said it expects to take a charge of $42 million, with $41 million of that recorded in the just ended third quarter. AMD said it expected savings of about $58 million in 2016 from the restructuring plan.

Under the plan AMD will outsource some IT and application development services, the company said in a regulatory filing.

AMD will cut white collar jobs and is not shutting or idling any engineering operations. The jobs will be lost across AMD’s global operations, including Austin, Texas, and company headquarters in Sunnyvale, California.

AMD had about 9,700 employees at the end of last year, according to its latest annual filing from February.

AMD reported its second quarter revenue fell 35 percent from the year-earlier period, citing weaker than expected demand for PCs.

The company has been shifting to gaming consoles and low-power servers, but progress has lagged Wall Street expectations due to intense competition from Intel and newer companies. It is currently betting the farm on its Zen chip range, which should be out next year.

AMD goes all Zen

golscan1AMD revealed some of its key plans for the next few years at its Financial Analyst Day today with most of it based around a philosophy which makes much ado about nothing.

The biggest news has to do with Zen, the new x86-compatible CPU core meant to replace Bulldozer family. AMD told us Zen about the technical details of the new architecture, but hinted about some vaguely encouraging details – mostly about time lines.

Zen will be a high-performance core intended to compete against Chipzilla’s best. In fact AMD expects its core to deliver about 40 percent higher performance per clock cycle than Bulldozer.
Zen looks a bit like K8 and Broadwell and is less about speed than what you can do with it.

Also, the first Zen-based cores are just the beginning. Future “Zen+” variants of this architecture should improve per-clock performance even further.

The Zen core will have simultaneous multithreading (SMT). Zen will stop at two threads per core, like today’s big Intel cores. Dual threads puts AMD on a more equal footing with Intel from a marketing standpoint.

Zen has a “high-bandwidth, low-latency cache system.” This is better than Bulldozer which has always suffered from a caches shortage. They clearly don’t perform as well in directed subsystem tests as the caches on recent Intel CPUs.

Zen will be in the shops in 2016, and those chips will be based on a chip fabrication process that uses FinFETs.

FinFETs will mean a faster switching speed and lower voltage operation than traditional planar transistors. AMD didn’t reveal the specific process to be used but they must be 14- and 16-nm FinFET processes at Samsung, GlobalFoundries, and TSMC.
Zen-based FX processors will be supported by a new AM4 platform that includes support for DDR4 memory. This same AM4 platform will also support smaller APU chips, unifying the company’s desktop offerings around a single socket.

AMD apparently had to prioritize this one chip over other options. The company’s 2016 APU products for desktops and mobile systems will not yet incorporate the Zen core. Also, the schedule for the K12 core, the ARM-compatible sister to Zen, has been pushed back to 2017.

CEO Lisu Su further revealed that Project Skybridge, the effort to make ARM- and x86-compatible CPUs share the same sockets and motherboards, has been nixed, reputedly due to lack of customer demand.

AMD opens Nasdaq at Financial Day ‘15

AMD Analyst Day '15_2
NEW YORK, NY – AMD’s CEO, Dr. Lisa Su, outlined a multi-year strategy designed to return the company to profitability and growth at today’s AMD 2015 Financial Analyst Day at the Nasdaq MarketSite studio in New York City.

The embattled company is a little over seven months into Su’s leadership role and is attempting what can only be called a “breakout” from the constraints of being locked into the number two position in the deflating PC market segment.

IP and Core Technology Updates
AMD showcased a number of new items at the event, including details on its next-generation 64-bit x86 and ARM processor cores, future graphics cores expected to deliver a 2x performance-per-watt improvement compared to current generation offerings, and modular design methodology that reduces system-on-chip (SoC) development costs and accelerates time to market.

Technology-related announcements include:
• Development of a brand new x86 processor core codenamed “Zen,” expected to drive AMD’s re-entry into high-performance desktop and server markets through improved instructions per clock of up to 40 percent, compared to AMD’s current x86 processor core. “Zen” will also feature simultaneous multi-threading (SMT) for higher throughput and a new cache subsystem.
• Updates on the company’s first custom 64-bit ARM core the “K12”. These enterprise-class 64-bit ARM cores are designed for efficiency and are ideally suited for server and embedded workloads.
• AMD’s plans to extend its graphics technology to the first high-performance graphics processing unit (GPU) featuring die stacked High Bandwidth Memory (HBM) using a 2.5D silicon interposer design. AMD plans to introduce this packaging in the second half of the year with its latest GPU.

Computing and Graphics Segment Updates
Additionally, AMD announced updates to its Computing and Graphics (CG) product roadmaps for accelerated processing unit (APU), central processing unit (CPU), and GPU products planned for introduction in 2016 and beyond. The upcoming products address key customer priorities, including increased performance, longer battery life, and improved energy efficiency. AMD also provided further details and publicly demonstrated its 6th Generation A-Series APU, formerly codenamed “Carrizo,” as well as its next-generation GPU offerings launching in the coming months.

AMD’s updated CG product roadmap includes:
• New AMD FX CPUs based on the “Zen” core and built using FinFET process technology. Featuring high core counts with SMT for high throughput and DDR4 compatibility, these CPUs will share the AM4 socket infrastructure with AMD’s 2016 Desktop APUs.
• 7th Generation AMD APUs will enable a discrete-level GPU gaming experience and full HSA performance in the FP4 Ultrathin Mobile Infrastructure.
• Future generations of high-performance GPUs will be based on FinFET process technology, which will contribute to a doubling of performance-per-watt. These cutting-edge discrete graphics will include second generation HBM technology.

Enterprise, Embedded, and Semi-Custom Segment Updates
AMD laid out a long-term strategy for its Enterprise, Embedded and Semi-Custom Business Group (EESC) to grow across a number of high-priority markets based on leveraging high-performance CPU and GPU cores that allow customers to build differentiated solutions. The near-term will bring continued focus on enabling scalable, semi-custom solutions and growth in the embedded pipeline. Looking ahead, next-generation “Zen” and “K12” cores will bring high performance to the datacenter, a space where AMD plans to regain share with a portfolio that includes x86 and ARM processors, increased power efficiency, and a renewed presence in the high-performance x86 server market.

“AMD’s high-performance IP, efficient modular design methodology, and evolved semi-custom business model will fuel strong growth opportunities across multiple markets,” said Forrest Norrod (a recent AMD hire formerly general manager of Dell’s Data Center Solutions), senior vice president and general manager, EESC. “In addition to driving sustained growth in our semi-custom and embedded businesses, we’re reaffirming our commitment to high-performance server computing based on our strong set of new product offerings.”

AMD’s EESC roadmap details include:
• Next-generation AMD Opteron™ processors, based on the “Zen” core targeting mainstream servers that will enable a broad spectrum of workloads with significant increases in I/O and memory capacity.
• Building off of the expected availability of “Seattle”-based systems later this year, AMD detailed plans for its next-generation ARM processors featuring the upcoming “K12” core.
• AMD also provided a glimpse into its new high-performance APU targeting HPC and workstation markets that is intended to deliver massive improvements to vector applications with scale-up graphics performance, HSA enablement, and optimized memory architecture.

Techeye Takeaway
AMD under Lisa Su is just now beginning to find its footing. The company is in dire need of an all-around “morale lift” to gain traction – this includes customers, employees and investors alike. In many respects the company committed the same mistake as did Intel in refusing to acknowledge the full impact their absence from mobile market would have on their future earnings. They are still in recovery mode from that mistake.

Another troubling factor is their misjudgment of the amount of time required to successfully penetrate the x86 dominated server segment with their 64-bit ARM based “Seattle” processors and ambidextrous plan. In fact, a fair number of those in the analyst community completely misjudged this call. Time has now nearly corrected this error – with the introduction of the “Zen” series AMD is once again preparing to reenter the x 86 server market as a player.

The company announced the use of High Bandwidth Memory (HBM) with their GPUs and plans product shipments in the second half of this year placing AMD 6 months ahead of Nvidia.

AMD was a lead proponent of the HBM JEDEC standard. Sources indicate AMD will be using HBM memories in a wide range of future CPU, APU and GPU product designs – dramatically increasing performance while keeping a lid on power.

AMD appears to be betting on the PC market from an advanced performance viewpoint, addressing the ever increasing demands of virtual reality, 4K screens and real-time gaming – something the power user community can appreciate. The company’s segue back into the low-end and mid-range server market with the aptly named “Zen” cores – something that has been obvious to their Asian customer base for an eternity.

Will AMD execute this time around?…,

Scales fall off entrepreneurs’ eyes

The final plenary session of Silicon Valley comes to Oxford was all about “scaling”.  This is biz jargon for coping with your company as it gets bigger and bigger. And the first to speak was Tom Hayes, who works for Marvell now but has also worked for HP, Applied Materials and AMD.

He pointed out the seemingly rather obvious point that not every company should get bigger. “You shouldn’t go down a path that may ruin you,” he said. Then followed what must surely be the equivalent of Zen and the Art of being an MBA. “When Applied was tiny we acted like we were a $10 billion company. Success kills more companies than failures do.”

Next up in the hot seat was the winsome Julie Hanna, chairman of Kiva.  She said that whatever market you are in, everything has to be done faster, better and cheaper. But the internet has changed everything radically. The power of peer to peer cannot be underestimated, she said. “Morality is not an add on feature,” she said, possibly another quote from Zen and the Art of being an MBA.

Frost & Sullivan hove into view in the shape of David Frigstand – he frankly acknowledged that it had never preducted the success of Apple and Skype. And here’s more from what is rapidly becoming a runaway hit,  Zen and the Art of Being an MBA: “We’re seeing an increase in chaos. We started off with a blue ocean strategy.” He thought that most companies failed because they failed to understand their customer base. It’s difficult to talk about scaling if a company doesn’t know its customer base.

Next up was the magnificently named Padmasree Warrior, from Cisco. You’ve encountered her in these pages before, at the Oxford Union. Cisco, she said, had got bigger (“scaled”) through acquisition, in fact by buying 125 companies. She asked herself how easy it is to keep the entrepreneurial spirit in a large company. Innovation is obviously not the answer, for once. “We went too far on the innovation side. That’s a lesson learned.”  And her contribution to Zen? It has to be: “Research tells us [that people between] 18 to 30 would be willing to work for less money as long as they could use their favourite social networking site at work.”

LinkedIn’s Reid Hoffman, who was so eloquent in the Oxford Union debate the other night, had nothing to say at all. A very Zen statement, that.

Kal Patel used to work for Best Buy and when Circuit City went out of business in 2008, his company got complacent. Zen? “When you’re very successful you have to replicate substance, not form”.