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AMD reveals Zen 2 processor architecture in bid to stay ahead of Intel

Advanced Micro Devices revealed the Zen 2 architecture for the family of processors that it will launch in the coming years, starting with 2019. The move is a follow-up to the competitive Zen designs that AMD launched in March 2017, and it promises two-times improvement in performance throughput. AMD hopes the Zen 2 processors will keep it ahead of or at parity with Intel, the worlds biggest maker of PC processors. The earlier Zen designs enabled chips that could process 52 percent more instructions per clock cycle than the previous generation. Lisa Su, CEO of Santa Clara, California-based AMD, made the announcement at an AMD press and analyst event in San Francisco. So much has really happened in the last two years, she said. Ive been CEO for four years. Its been an incredible four years. But we are just at the beginning of our journey. Zen has spawned AMDs most competitive chips in a decade, including Ryzen for the desktop, Threadripper (with up to 32 cores) for gamers, Ryzen Mobile for laptops, and Epyc for servers. In the future, you can expect to see Zen 2 cores in future models of those families of chips. AMDs focus is on making central processing units (CPUs), graphics processing units (GPUs), and accelerated processing units (APUs) that put the two other units together on the same chip. Zen 2 is our next-generation system architecture, Su said, noting chips using it will be made with 7-nanometer manufacturing, where the width between circuits is seven billionths of a meter. Su said the new chips will be targeted for the workloads of the future, including machine learning, big data analytics, cloud, and other tasks. AMD is going after the $29 billion total available market for data center chips by 2021. We see strong double-digit growth for the foreseeable future for the overall market, she said. We are not looking at incremental changes. The products you are seeing today are the products of the decisions we made four or five years ago. They were bets on where we think the market was going. The Zen-based designs are AMDs most competitive in a decade, and it now has every major computer maker using the Epyc chips for servers, from HP Enterprise to Dell. It is also feeding chips to data centers that run cloud deployments for Microsoft, Baidu, Tencent, Oracle, and others. AMD and Amazon Web Services announced today that Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud will use AMD Epyc CPUs, so customers can get access today to instances running on the AMD processors. Intel noted that it has an extensive relationship with AWS. The next-generation Epyc platform is code-named Rome, which will debut next year with 7-nanometer technology. Mark Papermaster, AMD chief technology officer, said AMD took a holistic design approach to creating Zen 2. Zen 2 marks the delivery of our promise of continuity, he said. We called a play and we are delivering. We are executing. Zen 2 chips are sampling today at 7-nanometer manufacturing, compared to the shipping 14-nanometer Zen processors that debuted in 2017. Zen 3 is on track to debut on 7-nanometer in 2020. AMD is using TSMC, the chip contract manufacturer, to make its 7-nanometer chips. Intel, meanwhile, has delayed its equivalent chips, dubbed 10-nanometer but at the same technology level, until late 2019. Zen 2 can get twice the throughput thanks to better branch prediction, or predicting what kind of processing will be necessary for the next computation. It also has better 256-bit load/store floating point processing, or double the previous generation. Zen 2 will also have stronger built-in security, where data can be fully encrypted as it is transferred to memory. You will see a huge jump as we go to Zen 2 products, Papermaster said. Intel has not yet made a comment, but it has scheduled a December 11 event to talk about its architecture. AMD also has a chiplet design approach with modular components on the chip that can more efficiently feed and receive data from processor cores. It will also have higher instructions per clock than the original Zen products. Kevin Krewell, analyst at Tirias Research, noted that AMD did not describe the instructions per clock cycle for Zen 2, but he assumes it will be better than the original Zen. He noted the doubled floating point performance figure was impressive. Forrest Norrod, senior vice president at AMD said that Epyc adoption can lead to 45 percent lower total cost of ownership (TCO) compared to Intel-based systems. He said that comes as a result of lower admin, licensing, hardware, and space costs. Pete Ungaro, CEO of Cray, said onstage that Crays next Shasta supercomputer with use AMD Epyc processors. The machine will be made for government agencies such as the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and run at 100 petaflops.

AMD outlines its future: 7nm GPUs with PCIe 4, Zen 2, Zen 3, Zen 4

AMD is making the most of TSMC's 7nm process advantage over Intel. AMD today charted out its plans for the next few years of product development, with an array of new CPUs and GPUs in the development pipeline. On the GPU front are two new datacenter-oriented GPUs: the Radeon Instinct MI60 and MI50. Based on the Vega architecture and built on TSMC's 7nm process, the cards are aimed not primarily at graphics (despite what one might think given that they're called GPUs) but rather at machine learning, high-performance computing, and rendering applications. MI60 will come with 32GB of ECC HBM2 (second-generation High-Bandwidth Memory) while the MI50 gets 16GB, and both have a memory bandwidth up to 1TB/s. ECC is also used to protect all internal memory within the GPUs themselves. The cards will also support PCIe 4.0 (which doubles the transfer rate of PCIe 3.0) and direct GPU-to-GPU links using AMD's Infinity Fabric. This will offer up to 200GB/s of bandwidth (three times more than PCIe 4) between up to 4 GPUs. The cards will support a wide range of data types for computation; for neural networks and machine learning, there are half-precision 16-bit floating point and 4- and 8-bit integer support; for HPC workloads, there's single (32-bit) and double (64-bit) precision floating point. AMD claims that the MI60 will be the fastest double-precision accelerator at up to 7.4TFLOPS, with the MI50 not far behind at 6.7TFLOPS. The cards also include built-in support for virtualization, allowing one card to be securely shared between multiple virtual machines. This makes it easier for cloud operators to offer GPU-accelerated virtual machines. The MI60 will ship to datacenter customers by the end of the year; MI50 is coming a little later but should be available by the end of Q1 2019. On the CPU side of things, AMD talked extensively about the forthcoming Zen 2 architecture. The goal of the original Zen architecture was to get AMD, at the very least, competitive with what Intel had to offer. AMD knew that Zen would not take the performance lead from Intel, but the pricing and features of its chips made them nonetheless attractive, especially in workloads that highlighted certain shortcomings of Intel's parts (fewer memory channels, less I/O bandwidth). Zen 2 promises to be not merely competitive with Intel, but superior to it. Key to this is TSMC's 7nm process, which offers twice the transistor density of the 14nm process the original Zen parts used. For the same performance level, power is reduced by about 50 percent, or, conversely, at the same power consumption, performance is increased by about 25 percent. TSMC's 14nm and 12nm processes both trail behind Intel's 14nm process in terms of performance per watt, but with 7nm, TSMC will take the lead. Zen 2 will also address certain weak aspects of the original Zen. For example, the original Zen used 128-bit data paths to handle 256-bit AVX2 operations; each operation was split into two parts and processed sequentially. In workloads using AVX2, this gave Intel, with its native 256-bit implementation, a huge advantage. Zen 2 doubles the floating-point execution units and data paths to be 256-bit, doubling the bandwidth available and greatly improving the performance of this code. For integer workloads, branch prediction and prefetching have been made more accurate and some caches enlarged. Zen 2 will also offer improved hardware protection against some variants of the Spectre attacks. The original Zen used a multichip module design. Chips used one, two, or four dies (for Ryzen, first-generation Threadripper, and Epyc/second-generation Threadripper, respectively) all put together into a single package. Each die had two Core Complexes (blocks of four cores), two memory controllers, some Infinity Fabric links (for connections between dies), and some PCIe channels. This made it straightforward for AMD to scale from the single-die, 8-core/16-thread Ryzen up to the 32-core/64-thread Epyc. Zen 2 is taking a very different approach, albeit one that still uses a multichip design. Instead of having each die contain CPUs, memory controllers, and I/O, the new design splits up the different roles. There will be a single 14nm I/O die, with eight memory controllers, eight Infinity Fabric ports, and PCIe lanes, and then a number of 7nm "chiplets" containing only CPUs and Infinity Fabric. This new approach should remedy some of the more awkward aspects of the original Zen; for example, there is a significant latency overhead when a core on one Zen die has to use memory from another die. With the Zen 2 design, memory latency should become much more uniform. AMD says that Zen 2 is sampling now, with processors due to hit the market in 2019. Zen 3, using an enhanced version of the 7nm process, is currently "on track" and likely to land in 2020, and Zen 4, on a more advanced process, is currently in the design stage.