AMD has laid out a roadmap to recover some of its lost market share with next-generation 64-bit x86 and ARM processor cores, plus a modular architecture that will enable the firm to more easily build SoCs from building blocks.
AMD detailed its roadmap for the near future at the firm's 2015 Financial Analyst Day event, including plans to re-enter the high-performance desktop and server markets it has effectively ceded to Intel over the past few years.
"This is probably the biggest single bet we are making as a company," said chief executive Lisa Su, referring to AMD's intention to focus more on the data centre, and less on low-end PCs and tablets.
"This is a place that AMD absolutely has been successful before, [but] we have not been competitive the last few years based on some of our investment choices. We will be competitive in the data centre market," she stated.
The plans revolve around a new x86 processor core codenamed Zen and AMD's specially developed 64-bit ARM-based processor core codenamed K12, which was first disclosed this time last year.
Zen is a completely new core based on a microarchitecture that has been redesigned from the ground up. Due to be delivered in 2016, Zen is claimed to offer a 40 percent improvement in instructions per clock against AMD's current x86 cores, and will feature simultaneous multi-threading for higher throughput and a new high-bandwidth low-latency cache subsystem.
"This core is about high performance. We don't back away from the energy efficiency we have been designing into our x86 CPUs, but we've doubled down on the performance characteristics of the Zen core," said AMD senior vice president and chief technology officer Mark Papermaster.
Zen is being designed to scale all the way from processors targeting battery-dependent mobile devices right through to enterprise-class server chips, according to AMD.
AMD is also taking a leaf out of Intel's book and implementing a design strategy of "leapfrogging" design teams to deliver a sustained pace of regular updates and quickly build up a family of cores in the near future.
On the ARM processor side, Papermaster said that AMD has been able to take advantage of synergies with its x86 cores to speed development, and that the core is on track for sampling during 2017.
"We have aligned this with customer needs, market needs and the ARM ecosystem for enterprise applications coming together," he said.
However, AMD is still keeping its cards close to its chest regarding the specific features or capabilities of K12, other than saying that it will yield a family of enterprise-class 64-bit ARM chips designed for efficiency and ideally suited for server and embedded workloads.
AMD is also moving to a more modular architecture in its SoC design process, enabling it to build chips out of reusable building blocks linked by an interconnect technology based on the HyperTransport standard, Papermaster said.
However, AMD has also had to make hard choices about what it will not invest in as part of this roadmap, and this includes the microserver platform gained from the acquisition of SeaMicro in 2012.
"We made the decision to exit the SeaMicro dense server system business, firstly because microservers are not growing as fast as originally thought, and secondly, we really aren't a systems company," explained Su.
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