AMD Takes Aim at Performance Leadership with Next-Generation EPYC Processor

AMD EPYC 'Rome': Zen 2 on 7nm, 64C/128T of CPU power

AMD Next Horizon in San Francisco, California, Tuesday, November 6, 2018.

Two years after AMD first unveiled the brand new Zen CPU architecture that would catapult it back into the high-performance PC and server CPU markets, the company has revealed details of the next-generation Zen 2 architecture that will succeed it.

'Legacy GPU architectures limit IT managers from effectively addressing the constantly evolving demands of processing and analysing huge datasets for modern cloud data centre workloads, ' claims David Wang, senior vice president of engineering at AMD's Radeon Technologies Group.

Specifically, the new Epyc Rome processors will feature a combination of 7nm Zen 2 CPU chips alongside another 14nm die that controls the input and output elements of the processor. That could soon change. When it comes to floating point per socket performance, it's a enormous 4x leap over the previous generation EPYC processor. AMD says the 7nm process will allow AMD to achieve either 25% more performance or 50% less power usage, however AMD did not state which nod they were comparing against; AMD could be comparing to either GlobalFoundries's 12nm or 14nm nodes (used on Zen+ and Zen respectively) or TSMC's previous 16nm node.


Intel attempted to get ahead of the curve earlier this week, unveiling its 14nm 48-core Cascade Lake-AP Xeon processor for datacentres. That will give AMD a lead over Intel in performance per watt, which could lead to AMD's top chips being more capable than Intel's in both single and multithreaded tasks for the first time in over a decade.

For now, AMD is only sharing details about Zen 2 on the server side. When matched against a dual-socket Xeon Platinum 8180M server, the AMD box ran the benchmark to completion first. According to Papermaster, this was something of a gamble, given the challenges of implementing such a complex design on a leading-edge semiconductor manufacturing technology. But because of continued delays in Intel's 10nm effort, AMD lucked out; it will be shipping some of the fastest and most power-efficient silicon in the datacenter next year. There are a couple of advantages to this approach: (1) a 64-core CPU can be manufactured more cheaply as a multi-chip package due to the reduction of manufacturing defects on smaller dies and (2) less critical dies can be implemented on less expensive process technologies.

While Rome is sampling with customers now, AMD has not yet proffered a timescale for consumer-centric Zen 2 implementations. AMD also teased that Zen 3 is on track for 2020 and will use a refined 7nm manufacturing process while maintaining forward socket compatibility to help customers migrate. A Zen 4 processor is also in the works, although no timeline was given for its debut.

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