Subject: General Tech | August 29, 2018 - 01:10 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: Jim Anderson, amd, lattice semiconductor, GLOBALFOUNDRIES
There will be a bit to talk about on tonight's podcast as we have seen two big changes in the industry this week. Most recently Jim Anderson, the GM and SVP of AMD's Computing and Graphics section handed in his resignation to become CEO of Lattice Semiconductor. The 35 year old FPGA company has had quite a history, from filing for Chapter 11 to grabbing IP from Silicon Image to having their purchase by a Chinese corporation blocked by the US Government. You may have never heard of them but there is a good chance you have seen or used some of their products. It will be interesting to see what this means for both companies.
The second big change comes from GLOBALFOUNDRIES and is right up Josh's 7nm alley. They will be abandoning their 7nm process to focus on their 14 and 12nm FinFET as their CEO, Tom Caulfield stated that this move makes sense as many companies have no interest in the new and more expensive fabrication process. This argument was undermined by AMD's immediately announced they will be moving the production of their next CPUs and GPUs to TSMC. There are several other companies, one of which being ARM, who are also narrowly focused on moving to 7nm and beyond. Intel has been quiet so far, for fairly obvious reasons.
"Anderson hails from AMD where he was senior veep and GM of the chip flinger's Computing and Graphics Business Group. He joined AMD in May 2015, following stints at Intel, Avago and LSI, and directly replaces Glen Hawk, who was interim boss and will remain as special advisor to the CEO until the end of October."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Intel boosts ultrabooks and fanless PCs with more eighth-gen CPUs @ The Tech Report
- We've found another problem with IPv6: It's sparked a punch-up between top networks @ The Register
- Yahoo and AOL are scraping your inboxes for data to sell to advertisers @ The Inquirer
- Windows 0-day pops up out of
nowhereTwitter @ The Register
- NVIDIA Controls AIB Launch and Driver Distribution @ [H]ard|OCP
- Nest Hello Video Doorbell @ Missing Remote
Subject: Processors | April 25, 2018 - 09:45 PM | Josh Walrath
Tagged: Zen+, Vega, TSMC, ryzen, Results, Q1 2018, Polaris, GLOBALFOUNDRIES, financials, amd, 7nm, 12nm
Today AMD announced their latest financial results for Q1 2018. We expected it to be a good quarter with their guidance earlier this year, but I doubt many thought it would be as strong as it turned out to be. AMD posted revenue of $1.65 billion with a net income of $81 million. This is up from the expected $1.57 billion that analysts expected from what is typically a slow quarter. This is up 40% from Q1 2017 and its $1.18 billion and up 23% from Q4 2017.
There are multiple reasons behind this revenue growth. The compute and graphics segment lead the way with $1.12B of revenue. The entire year of 2017 AMD had released parts seemingly nonstop since March and the introduction of Ryzen. Q1 continued this trend with the release of the first Ryzen APUs with Vega Graphics introducing the 2000 series. AMD also ramped up production of the newly released Zen+ Ryzen chips and started shipping those out to retailers and partners alike. Initial mobile Ryzen parts were also introduced and shipped with SKUs being also shipped to partners who have yet to announce and release products based on these chips. Finally the strength of the Radeon graphics chips in both gaming and blockchain applications allowed them a tremendous amount of sellthrough throughout 2017 and into 2018. AMD estimates that 10% of the quarter was due to blockchain demand.
Enterprise, Embedded, and Semi-Custom had a revenue of $532 million, which is lower than most analysts expected. Semi-Custom in particular has seen a decline over the past few quarters with the release and saturation of the market of the latest console platforms utilizing AMD designed chips. It appears as though much of the contract is front loaded in terms of revenue with royalties tapering off over time as sales decrease. AMD did have some significant wins, namely providing Intel with Vega based GPUs to be integrated with Intel’s Kaby Lake-G based units. These declines were offset by the shipment of EPYC based processors that are slowly ramping and being shipped to partners to be integrated into server platforms later this year. We have seen a handful of wins from companies like Dell EMC, but AMD is still slowly re-entering the market that they were forced to abandon with their previous, outdated Opteron products. AMD expects to reach mid-single digit marketshare during 2019, but for now they are just getting off the ground with this platform.
The company is not standing still or resting on their laurels after the successful and heralded launch of the latest Ryzen 2000 series chips based on the Zen+ architecture. It is aggressively ramping their mobile chips featuring the Zen/Vega combination and have some 25 product wins being released throughout late spring and summer. Overall partners have some 60 products either shipping or will ship later this year featuring Ryzen based CPUs.
There is some fear that AMD will see its GPU sales throughput be impacted by the recent drop of cryptocurrency value. Several years back with the Bitcoin crash we saw a tremendous amount of secondhand product being sold and GPU revenues for the company tanked. AMD is a bit more optimistic about the upcoming quarter as they expect the current cryptocurrency/blockchain market is much more robust and people will be holding onto these cards to mine other products/workloads rather than drop them on eBay. My thought here is that we will see a rise in cards available on the secondary/used market, but quite a bit might be offset by latent gaming demand that has been held back due the outrageous prices of GPUs over the past year. People that have been waiting for prices to get back to MSRP or below will then buy. This could be further enhanced if memory prices start to drop, providing more affordable DDR4 and flash for SSDs.
The company is also forging ahead with advanced process technology. They have recently received silicon back from TSMC’s 7nm process and it looks to be a Vega based product. The rumor surrounding this is that it will be more of a compute platform initially rather than gaming oriented. Later this year AMD expects to receive new EPYC silicon, but it looks as though this will be from GLOBALFOUNDRIES 7nm process. AMD wants to be flexible in terms of manufacturing, but they have a long history with GLOBALFOUNDRIES when it comes to CPU production. The two companies work closely together to make sure the process and CPU design match up as cleanly as possible to allow products such as Zen to reach market successfully. The GPU arm is obviously more flexible here as they have a history with multiple foundry partners throughout the past two decades.
AMD has set an aggressive, but achievable, timetable of product releases that is initially focusing on the CPU side but would logically be transitioning to the GPU side. Zen+ is out on time and has met with acclaim from consumers and reviewers alike. The latest GPU products are comparable in performance to what NVIDIA has to offer, though they are less power efficient for that level of performance. The “pipecleaner” Vega on 7nm will pave the way towards Navi based products that look to be introduced next year. AMD could possibly refresh Vega on 12nm, but so far there has been no concrete information that such a product exists. They may very well continue to rely on current Polaris and Vega products throughout the rest of this year while focusing on Navi efforts to have a more competitive part come 2019.
Q2 2018 looks to be another successful quarter for AMD. The company’s outlook calls for revenue in the $1.725 billion range, plus or minus $50 million. AMD expects continued growth in all Ryzen product lines and greater throughput of EPYC based products as companies test and release products based on that platform. The GPU market could remain flat, but will most likely decline. That decline will be more than covered by the sell-through of the Ryzen line from top to bottom.
AMD improved their margin by an impressive 4%. Going from 32% to 36% showed the strength and higher ASPs of both CPU and GPU products. AMD expects another 1% increase over the next quarter. While these are good numbers for AMD, they do not match the 58%+ for NVIDIA and Intel when it comes to their margins. AMD certainly has a lot of room for improvement, and a richer product stack will allow them to achieve greater ASPs and see a rise in their overall margins. If EPYC becomes more successful, then we could see another significant improvement in margins for the company.
AMD is getting back to where they belong in terms of product placement, competitiveness, and financial performance. The company has seen a huge improvement year on year and hopes to continue that with a rich product stack that addresses multiple areas of computing. AI and machine learning is ramping up in the company in terms of software support as they feel their CPUs and GPUs are already good enough to handle the workloads. As more money comes in, they can afford to diversify and create a wider product base to compete in more markets. So far Lisa Su has been very, very successful in helping pull AMD from the ashes to the competitive situation that they currently find themselves in.
Subject: General Tech | September 28, 2017 - 12:23 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: 12nm, GLOBALFOUNDRIES, amd, ryzen, Pinnacle 7, Pinnacle 5, Pinnacle 3, Pinnacle, x470, b450
DigiTimes reports today that AMD has informed motherboard makers that their new series of chips, the Pinnacle family, will in launch early 2018. They will lead with the Pinnacle 7 series, with Pinnacle 5 and 3 series arriving in March. April will see the low powered models while Enterprise will have to wait for the Pro until May. The chips will be built on GLOFO's 12nm process and will hopefully build on AMD's current successes with Ryzen. You will also meet the new 400 series chipset, so far the X470 and B450 have been mentioned. While this is still officially a rumour, it is a fairly solid one.
"AMD has informed its partners that it plans to launch in February 2018 an upgrade version of its Ryzen series processors built using a 12nm low-power (12LP) process at Globalfoundries, according to sources at motherboard makers."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Power meltdown 'fries' SourceForge, knocks site's servers titsup @ The Register
- Intel's self-learning 'Loihi' AI chip wants machines to think like humans @ The Inquirer
- Bell Canada Wants Pirate Websites Blocked For Canadians @ Slashdot
- Have MAC, will hack: iThings have trivial-to-exploit Wi-Fi bug @ The Register
- Samsung tries to catch up Everspin on MRAM @ Electronics Weekly
- Internet Explorer flaw is exposing your search habits @ The Inquirer
- Helium's for balloons and squeaky voices, not this 10TB Toshiba beast @ The Register
Subject: General Tech | September 21, 2017 - 12:43 PM | Alex Lustenberg
Tagged: z270, windows 10, WD, video, toshiba, ShadowPlay, ryzen, podcast, nvidia, nuc, msi, max-q, Intel, gs63vr, GLOBALFOUNDRIES, gigabyte, EPYC, ansel, 2500U, 12TB
PC Perspective Podcast #468 - 09/21/17
Join us for discussion on AMD Raven Ridge rumors, Intel and Global Foundries new fabrication technology!
The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!
- iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the iTunes Store (audio only)
- Google Play - Subscribe to our audio podcast directly through Google Play!
- RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader (audio only)
- MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file
Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Josh Walrath, Sebastion Peak, Allyn Malventano
Peanut Gallery: Ken Addison, Alex Lustenberg
Program length: 1:39:59
Week in Review:
News items of interest:
Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
Subject: General Tech | September 20, 2017 - 09:44 PM | Josh Walrath
Tagged: GLOBALFOUNDRIES, FinFET, FD-SOI, 12nm, 14nm, 14nm+, 22FDX, 28FDX, 12FDX, amd, Vega, ryzen
Subject: General Tech | September 19, 2017 - 11:33 PM | Josh Walrath
Tagged: Intel, China, cannon lake, coffee lake, 10nm, 14nm+, 14nm++, 22FFL, GLOBALFOUNDRIES, Samsung, 22FDX
Subject: General Tech | June 7, 2017 - 09:31 PM | Josh Walrath
Tagged: silicon nanosheet, Samsung, IBM, GLOBALFOUNDRIES, FinFET, 5nm
It seems only yesterday that we saw Intel introduce their 22nm FinFET technology, and now we are going all the way down to 5nm. This is obviously an exaggeration. The march of process technology has been more than a little challenging for the past 5+ years for everyone in the industry. Intel has made it look a little easier by being able to finance these advances a little better than the other pure-play foundries. It does not mean that they have not experienced challenges on their own.
We have seen some breakthroughs these past years with everyone jumping onto FinFETs with TSMC, Samsung, and GLOBALFOUNDRIES introducing their own processes. GLOBALFOUNDRIES initially had set out on their own, but that particular endeavor did not pan out. The ended up licensing Samsung’s 14nm processes (LPE and LPP) to start producing chips of their own, primarily for AMD in their graphics and this latest generation of Ryzen CPUs.
These advances have not been easy. While FinFETs are needed at these lower nodes to continue to provide the performance and power efficiency while supporting these transistor densities, the technology will not last forever. 10nm and 7nm lines will continue to use them, but many believe that while we will see the densities improve, the power characteristics will start to lag behind. The theory is that past 7nm nodes traditional FinFETs will no longer work as desired. This is very reminiscent of the sub 28nm processes that attempted to use planar structures on bulk silicon. In that case the chips could be made, but power issues plagued the designs and eventually support for those process lines were dropped.
IBM and their research associates Samsung, GLOBALFOUNDRIES at SUNY Polytechnic Institute Colleges of Nanoscale Science and Engineering’s NanoTech Complex in Albany, NY have announced a breakthrough in a new “Gate-All-Around” architecture made on a 5nm process. FinFETs are essentially a rectangle surround on three sides by gates, giving it the “fin” physical characteristics. This new technology now covers the fourth side and embeds these channels in nanosheets of silicon.
The problem with FinFETs is that they will eventually be unable to scale with power as transistors get closer and closer. While density scales, power and performance will get worse as compared to previous nodes. The 5nm silicon nanosheet technology gives a significant boost to power and efficiency, thereby doing to FinFETs what they did with planar structures at the 20/22nm nodes.
One of the working EUV litho machines at SUNY Albany.
IBM asserts that the average chip the size of a fingernail can contain up to 30 billion transistors and continue to see the density, power, and efficiency improvements that we would expect with a normal process shrink. The company expects these process nodes to start rolling out in a 2019 time frame if all goes as planned.
There are few details in how IBM was able to achieve this result. We do know a couple things about it. EUV lithography was used extensively to avoid the multi-patterning nightmare that this would entail. For the past two years Ametek has been installing 100 watt EUV litho machines throughout the world to select clients. One of these is located on the SUNY Albany campus where this research was done. We also know that deposition was done layer by layer with silicon and the other materials.
What we don’t know is how long it takes to create a complete wafer. Usually these test wafers are packed full of SRAM and very little logic. It is a useful test and creates a baseline for many structures that will eventually be applied to this process. We do not know how long it takes to produce such a wafer, but considering how the layers look to be deposited it takes a long, long time with current tools and machinery. Cutting edge wafers in production can take upwards of 16 weeks to complete. I hesitate to even guess how long each test wafer takes. Because of the very 3D nature of the design, I am curious as to how the litho stages work and how many passes are still needed to complete the design.
This looks to be a very significant advancement in process technology that should be mass produced in the timeline suggested by IBM. It is a significant jump, but it seems to borrow a lot of previous FinFET structures. It does not encompass anything exotic like “quantum wells”, but is able to go lower than the currently specified 7nm processes that TSMC, Samsung, and Intel have hinted at (and yes, process node names should be taken with a grain of salt from all parties at this time). IBM does appear to be comparing this to what Samsung calls its 7nm process in terms of dimensions and transistor density.
Cross section of a 5nm transistor showing the embedded channels and silicon nanosheets.
While Moore’s Law has been stretched thin as of late, we are still seeing these scientists and engineers pushing against the laws of physics to achieve better performance and scaling at incredibly small dimensions. The silicon nanosheet technology looks to be an effective and relatively affordable path towards smaller sizes without requiring exotic materials to achieve. IBM and its partners look to have produced a process node that will continue the march towards smaller, more efficient, and more powerful devices. It is not exactly around the corner, but 2019 is close enough to start planning designs that could potentially utilize this node.
What Makes Ryzen Tick
We have been exposed to details about the Zen architecture for the past several Hot Chips conventions as well as other points of information directly from AMD. Zen was a clean sheet design that borrowed some of the best features from the Bulldozer and Jaguar architectures, as well as integrating many new ideas that had not been executed in AMD processors before. The fusion of ideas from higher performance cores, lower power cores, and experience gained in APU/GPU design have all come together in a very impressive package that is the Ryzen CPU.
It is well known that AMD brought back Jim Keller to head the CPU group after the slow downward spiral that AMD entered in CPU design. While the Athlon 64 was a tremendous part for the time, the subsequent CPUs being offered by the company did not retain that leadership position. The original Phenom had problems right off the bat and could not compete well with Intel’s latest dual and quad cores. The Phenom II shored up their position a bit, but in the end could not keep pace with the products that Intel continued to introduce with their newly minted “tic-toc” cycle. Bulldozer had issues out of the gate and did not have performance numbers that were significantly greater than the previous generation “Thuban” 6 core Phenom II product, much less the latest Intel Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge products that it would compete with.
AMD attempted to stop the bleeding by iterating and evolving the Bulldozer architecture with Piledriver, Steamroller, and Excavator. The final products based on this design arc seemed to do fine for the markets they were aimed at, but certainly did not regain any marketshare with AMD’s shrinking desktop numbers. No matter what AMD did, the base architecture just could not overcome some of the basic properties that impeded strong IPC performance.
The primary goal of this new architecture is to increase IPC to a level consistent to what Intel has to offer. AMD aimed to increase IPC per clock by at least 40% over the previous Excavator core. This is a pretty aggressive goal considering where AMD was with the Bulldozer architecture that was focused on good multi-threaded performance and high clock speeds. AMD claims that it has in fact increased IPC by an impressive 54% from the previous Excavator based core. Not only has AMD seemingly hit its performance goals, but it exceeded them. AMD also plans on using the Zen architecture to power products from mobile products to the highest TDP parts offered.
The Zen Core
The basis for Ryzen are the CCX modules. These modules contain four Zen cores along with 8 MB of shared L3 cache. Each core has 64 KB of L1 I-cache and 32 KB of D-cache. There is a total of 512 KB of L2 cache. These caches are inclusive. The L3 cache acts as a victim cache which partially copies what is in L1 and L2 caches. AMD has improved the performance of their caches to a very large degree as compared to previous architectures. The arrangement here allows the individual cores to quickly snoop any changes in the caches of the others for shared workloads. So if a cache line is changed on one core, other cores requiring that data can quickly snoop into the shared L3 and read it. Doing this allows the CPU doing the actual work to not be interrupted by cache read requests from other cores.
Each core can handle two threads, but unlike Bulldozer has a single integer core. Bulldozer modules featured two integer units and a shared FPU/SIMD. Zen gets rid of CMT for good and we have a single integer and FPU units for each core. The core can address two threads by utilizing AMD’s version of SMT (symmetric multi-threading). There is a primary thread that gets higher priority while the second thread has to wait until resources are freed up. This works far better in the real world than in how I explained it as resources are constantly being shuffled about and the primary thread will not monopolize all resources within the core.
Zen vs. 40 Years of CPU Development
Zen is nearly upon us. AMD is releasing its next generation CPU architecture to the world this week and we saw CPU demonstrations and upcoming AM4 motherboards at CES in early January. We have been shown tantalizing glimpses of the performance and capabilities of the “Ryzen” products that will presumably fill the desktop markets from $150 to $499. I have yet to be briefed on the product stack that AMD will be offering, but we know enough to start to think how positioning and placement will be addressed by these new products.
To get a better understanding of how Ryzen will stack up, we should probably take a look back at what AMD has accomplished in the past and how Intel has responded to some of the stronger products. AMD has been in business for 47 years now and has been a major player in semiconductors for most of that time. It really has only been since the 90s where AMD started to battle Intel head to head that people have become passionate about the company and their products.
The industry is a complex and ever-shifting one. AMD and Intel have been two stalwarts over the years. Even though AMD has had more than a few challenging years over the past decade, it still moves forward and expects to compete at the highest level with its much larger and better funded competitor. 2017 could very well be a breakout year for the company with a return to solid profitability in both CPU and GPU markets. I am not the only one who thinks this considering that AMD shares that traded around the $2 mark ten months ago are now sitting around $14.
AMD Through 1996
AMD became a force in the CPU industry due to IBM’s requirement to have a second source for its PC business. Intel originally entered into a cross licensing agreement with AMD to allow it to produce x86 chips based on Intel designs. AMD eventually started to produce their own versions of these parts and became a favorite in the PC clone market. Eventually Intel tightened down on this agreement and then cancelled it, but through near endless litigation AMD ended up with a x86 license deal with Intel.
AMD produced their own Am286 chip that was the first real break from the second sourcing agreement with Intel. Intel balked at sharing their 386 design with AMD and eventually forced the company to develop its own clean room version. The Am386 was released in the early 90s, well after Intel had been producing those chips for years. AMD then developed their own version of the Am486 which then morphed into the Am5x86. The company made some good inroads with these speedy parts and typically clocked them faster than their Intel counterparts (eg. Am486 40 MHz and 80 MHz vs. the Intel 486 DX33 and DX66). AMD priced these points lower so users could achieve better performance per dollar using the same chipsets and motherboards.
Intel released their first Pentium chips in 1993. The initial version was hot and featured the infamous FDIV bug. AMD made some inroads against these parts by introducing the faster Am486 and Am5x86 parts that would achieve clockspeeds from 133 MHz to 150 MHz at the very top end. The 150 MHz part was very comparable in overall performance to the Pentium 75 MHz chip and we saw the introduction of the dreaded “P-rating” on processors.
There is no denying that Intel continued their dominance throughout this time by being the gold standard in x86 manufacturing and design. AMD slowly chipped away at its larger rival and continued to profit off of the lucrative x86 market. William Sanders III set the bar higher about where he wanted the company to go and he started on a much more aggressive path than many expected the company to take.
Subject: Processors | February 8, 2017 - 09:38 PM | Josh Walrath
Tagged: Zen, Skylake, Samsung, ryzen, kaby lake, ISSCC, Intel, GLOBALFOUNDRIES, amd, AM4, 14 nm FinFET
Yesterday EE Times posted some interesting information that they had gleaned at ISSCC. AMD released a paper describing the design process and advances they were able to achieve with the Zen architecture manufactured on Samsung’s/GF’s 14nm FinFETT process. AMD went over some of the basic measurements at the transistor scale and how it compares to what Intel currently has on their latest 14nm process.
The first thing that jumps out is that AMD claimes that their 4 core/8 thread x86 core is about 10% smaller than what Intel has with one of their latest CPUs. We assume it is either Kaby Lake or Skylake. AMD did not exactly go over exactly what they were counting when looking at the cores because there are some significant differences between the two architectures. We are not sure if that 44mm sq. figure includes the L3 cache or the L2 caches. My guess is that it probably includes L2 cache but not L3. I could be easily wrong here.
Going down the table we see that AMD and Samsung/GF are able to get their SRAM sizes down smaller than what Intel is able to do. AMD has double the amount of L2 cache per core, but it is only about 60% larger than Intel’s 256 KB L2. AMD also has a much smaller L3 cache as well than Intel. Both are 8 MB units but AMD comes in at 16 mm sq. while Intel is at 19.1 mm sq. There will be differences in how AMD and Intel set up these caches, and until we see L3 performance comparisons we cannot assume too much.
(Image courtesy of ISSCC)
In some of the basic measurements of the different processes we see that Intel has advantages throughout. This is not surprising as Intel has been well known to push process technology beyond what others are able to do. In theory their products will have denser logic throughout, including the SRAM cells. When looking at this information we wonder how AMD has been able to make their cores and caches smaller. Part of that is due to the likely setup of cache control and access.
One of the most likely culprits of this smaller size is that the less advanced FPU/SSE/AVX units that AMD has in Zen. They support AVX-256, but it has to be done in double the cycles. They can do single cycle AVX-128, but Intel’s throughput is much higher than what AMD can achieve. AVX is not the end-all, be-all but it is gaining in importance in high performance computing and editing applications. David Kanter in his article covering the architecture explicitly said that AMD made this decision to lower the die size and power constraints for this product.
Ryzen will undoubtedly be a pretty large chip overall once both modules and 16 MB of L3 cache are put together. My guess would be in the 220 mm sq. range, but again that is only a guess once all is said and done (northbridge, southbridge, PCI-E controllers, etc.). What is perhaps most interesting of it all is that AMD has a part that on the surface is very close to the Broadwell-E based Intel i7 chips. The i7-6900K runs at 3.2 to 3.7 GHz, features 8 cores and 16 threads, and around 20 MB of L2/L3 cache. AMD’s top end looks to run at 3.6 GHz, features the same number of cores and threads, and has 20 MB of L2/L3 cache. The Intel part is rated at 140 watts TDP while the AMD part will have a max of 95 watts TDP.
If Ryzen is truly competitive in this top end space (with a price to undercut Intel, yet not destroy their own margins) then AMD is going to be in a good position for the rest of this year. We will find out exactly what is coming our way next month, but all indications point to Ryzen being competitive in overall performance while being able to undercut Intel in TDPs for comparable cores/threads. We are counting down the days...