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The recent round of restructuring at Advanced Micro Devices hurt not only sales and marketing professionals, but also developers of new products. Besides, the new ambidextrous strategy brings a number of new things into the microprocessor development process. As a result, AMD is currently revising its high-performance x86 roadmap. The consequence of such review could be further delay of competitive x86 chips.

It is not a secret that fully-fledged Steamroller micro-architecture chips – such as AMD Opteron for servers as well as FX-series for desktops – have always been planned for 2014, the main question was whether the products were set to be released early in 2014 or late in 2014. Recently, it also transpired that AMD decided to cancel Steamroller-based Kaveri accelerated processing unit for mainstream market and produce Piledriver-powered Richland chip instead, meaning that there will be no Steamroller in 2014 at all. To make the matters even worse, SemiAccurate web-site reported that AMD actually killed Steamroller and Excavator projects as they are today. While AMD was quick to deny the information, this does not mean that there is no massive reconsideration of plans ongoing, especially considering the new plans to introduce ARM-based server solutions in 2014 and changes with the process technology-related roadmaps at the foundries.

Steamroller and 28nm Process Technology

Originally, Steamroller-based accelerated processing units and then central processing units were meant to be made using 28nm process technology at Globalfoundries (even though AMD never confirmed that officially). However, according to PC Watch web-site, there were issues with test APUs made at 28nm node, which was a reason why AMD decided to terminate exclusivity agreement with Globalfoundries so that to gain ability to choose the right partner for high-end APUs and CPUs. Nonetheless, since Steamroller designs are already tied to Globalfoundries 28nm fabrication process, the release dates of the formers depend on the ramp up and yields of the latter.

Globalfoundries is about to begin the ramp up of its Fab 8, which means that its abilities to produce 28nm chips in volumes will be quickly improving starting this December, but AMD decided to minimize the risks. The company, according to media reports, cancelled its Steamroller-based performance-mainstream Kaveri APU and substituted it with Richland APU (which features Piledriver x86 cores, but comes with latest-generation Radeon HD GCN cores) made using 32nm SOI process technology.

All-in-all, it looks like Globalfoundries is unable to start volume manufacturing of products based on Steamroller micro-architecture using 28nm process technology, whereas after the recent round of layoffs, AMD cannot redesign its chips quickly to improve yields in order to release them next year. Partly, this explains why AMD will not be talking about Steamroller at International Solid-State Circuits Conference 2013, where the company traditionally revealed details about its high-end x86 cores. Instead, AMD will reveal some additional information about its low-power Jaguar x86 micro-architecture.

 

In any case, without competitive x86 high-performance Steamroller core in 2013, the gap between general-purpose performance offered by AMD and Intel chips will get even wider next year as Intel’s Haswell is reportedly on-track for mid-year release.

AMD Left with Fewer Engineers, but with Higher Number of Projects

What is interesting is what’s next for AMD? Globalfoundries vowed to start production of 20nm chips in the second half of 2013 and 14nm hybrid process tech in 2014. Will AMD be able to take advantage of those processes and catch up with Intel?

Even though many talented developers were either fired or left AMD in the recent years, the amount of projects that the company is simultaneously working on now has increased thanks to Rory Read’s ambidextrous strategy. The developers now have to work on high-end x86 server/desktop chips (FX-series, Opteron), mainstream x86 APU chips (A-series), low-power x86 APU chips (E-series) and various server and consumer ARM-based products. Ultimately, there are at least four major designs in development at AMD. In addition, AMD also has to work on improvements for its high-performance and low-power x86 micro-architectures.

The ambidextrous strategy implies usage of similar building blocks inside completely different chips. While it clearly lowers development costs, it also means that AMD will be unable to leap forward one particular product line. Each building block needs to be developed for a particular process technology to be efficient in terms of performance. At the same time, each building block needs to be tailored for different product designs to ensure high-performance across the board. Hence, to boost the speed of one product by taking advantage of a new manufacturing, AMD needs to redevelop virtually all building blocks it has and tailor them for all possible designs to ensure maximum performance and power-efficiency across the product family.

Given the limited amount of engineers at the company, the firm will hardly be able to quickly respond to changing conditions and adopt the latest process technologies among the first ones, simply because its CPU/APU product lines will be too broad. AMD will have to be rather conservative with transitions to newer process technologies as they will require redevelopment of building blocks for numerous chips.

To some extent, this is a reason why AMD has to revise its Steamroller, Excavator and post-Excavator/post-Bulldozer plans. Unfortunately, this roadmap change will likely bring a number of delays, hence, the Excavator may emerge even later than expected today.

Tags: AMD, Steamroller, Excavator, Piledriver, Bulldozer, Richland, Kaveri, x86 32nm, 28nm, 20nm, 14nm, Globalfoundries, TSMC

Discussion

Comments currently: 81
Discussion started: 11/23/12 05:22:43 AM
Latest comment: 06/21/13 11:23:30 PM
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1. 
ehh...A total mess.
13 10 [Posted by: tks  | Date: 11/23/12 05:22:43 AM]
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AMD it's losing steam, by the way Intel will stop innovation and starts selling higher mark up crappy CPU"s for the zombie masses of Intel fanny boys after AMD,dies a painful steam roller death.
5 3 [Posted by: Urhu  | Date: 11/25/12 12:22:28 AM]
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2. 
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0 18 [Posted by: tedstoy  | Date: 11/23/12 06:04:18 AM]
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3. 
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7 18 [Posted by: AvONbaCK  | Date: 11/23/12 07:30:05 AM]
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Engineers, marketers, and sales people got the sack because there is a worldwide and prolonged recession that is directly responsible for falling income for all tech companies (Panasonic and Sony were just downgraded to junk status yesterday by Finch). AMD is in the process of redirecting some resources away from big cores and towards low power solutions, as this is where the market is growing. Intel is following suite. AMD's strategy is obviously not to put all their eggs in the one basket as the chip market becomes fragmented. Whilst their resources are "stretched", the slower development will be matched by slower market uptake of products. Intel will stretch out the lifecycle of their developed Haswell for 2 years. AMD will do likewise with Piledriver (with a minor tock). The boom time is over. Tech companies are in slower moving mode to match the market, in order to preserve balance sheets.

It is a pity about the GloFlo 28nm yields. Steamroller should have been released to go head to head with Haswell for the glory. But looking at AMD's sales, Bulldozer/Piledriver comprises only 7%. So AMD will cut their losses to start gaining with their low power APU designs. This is prudent management.
16 16 [Posted by: linuxlowdown  | Date: 11/23/12 10:05:58 PM]
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4 16 [Posted by: 123  | Date: 11/23/12 10:50:28 PM]
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14 18 [Posted by: linuxlowdown  | Date: 11/24/12 02:46:01 AM]
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oh, the boy with many names?

now you're AMD insider and expert on management, also? kid of such talents! let me teach something, kiddo, you may have use of it in the life - it's completely AMD unrelated.

the company i work for is rather big, international and stuff... i have no idea who top managers are in central division, but all three of the board members from site i work at (over 3000 employees) can be replaced in a day, and virtually NOTHING will change. CEO was replaced few years ago - no change at all (company remained profitable all the time, so it wasn't about financial problems). there were 10-15% layoffs - nothing changed - except for people that were sacked, of course.

so, as usual, you talk about things that you don't know anything about. i know that stuff about my company, only because i'm an insider, and about CEO - well, i didn't know what will happen, but people who knew said 'nothing' and they were right.

on top management, you don't know anything unless you're an insider - i am not close to them, lowest manager level (which is, btw, safest place to be when layouts start, and the place where highest concentration of experts is - you're completely wrong if you think that CEO has a field of expertise)

on AMD - you don't know shit if current CEO is crap or not and i don't know either. maybe he is, maybe he got a company in downward spiral and is saving what can be saved.

btw, intel changed CEO? please tell me is it a good thing or bad, i need your opinion since you know so much...
11 4 [Posted by: snakefist  | Date: 11/24/12 06:27:30 AM]
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3 16 [Posted by: 123  | Date: 11/24/12 10:44:25 AM]
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really?!!!
5 0 [Posted by: mosu  | Date: 11/24/12 02:23:54 PM]
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3 14 [Posted by: 123  | Date: 11/24/12 09:59:14 PM]
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wow. thank you for the info. world would be so much less informed if you weren't around!

so, intel ceo wasn't ideal? the new one must be selfishness incarnated, he will give silicon for workmanship+material cost. we are entering the bright new era. i'm so excited!
13 3 [Posted by: snakefist  | Date: 11/25/12 07:43:32 AM]
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4. 
Haswell Q1 2013 - Late march more likely. Not mid year.
4 1 [Posted by: Vampire36  | Date: 11/23/12 09:02:34 AM]
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7 17 [Posted by: AvONbaCK  | Date: 11/23/12 09:07:46 AM]
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13 16 [Posted by: linuxlowdown  | Date: 11/23/12 10:25:05 PM]
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3 14 [Posted by: 123  | Date: 11/24/12 09:58:48 PM]
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@123 - Haswell's GPU might manage to play Wolfenstien at a decent frame rate. This will be an improvement over just being able to play classic 2D arcade games. It's a shame that the number one chip vendor has such rubbish graphics that finds its way into every desktop and laptop. Consumers suffer because Intel is not up to the job. Intel will not make good graphics anytime soon because they don't have good engineers. Anyone who does know how to make decent graphics works for successful companies like Nvidia and AMD. As long as Otenelli is at the helm, Intel will fail. Intel might as well give up now before they go bankrupt*

*there troll, there's a bit of your own medicine using your own usual troll lines. It's insulting, isn't it.

Addit: Let me make it explicit for intellectual fail Avon - no, I'm not serious.
13 14 [Posted by: linuxlowdown  | Date: 11/25/12 02:12:59 AM]
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@Vampire - Are Intel in a rush to deliver Haswell given falling desktop sales, Windows 8 fail, and Steamroller delay?
15 16 [Posted by: linuxlowdown  | Date: 11/23/12 10:21:57 PM]
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Yes, they want more market share.
The rush is because mobile phones, tablets.

Haswell will be middle or late march ready for sale for desktops.
5 1 [Posted by: Vampire36  | Date: 11/24/12 05:40:16 AM]
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5. 
AMD accelerate delays
9 4 [Posted by: Tristan  | Date: 11/23/12 11:41:43 AM]
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6. 
AMD mainstream processors aren't the solution, they're the problem. Making better ones will not fix it, since they still will not be as good as Intel's.

AMD has to execute on Jaguar, or they're doomed. Atom sucks, and is no real competition if AMD executes there. Plus, it can move into the tablet market, at least part of it.

You hate to see any development delayed, but you also hate to see a company bleed cash and go out of business. Plus, the one place they can't slow development is the Jaguar, where they have a big edge over Intel, and where they can aim it at a growing market.

Let's just hope the Jaguar is as successful as it should be. If not, it's hard to see any near term success for AMD.
4 1 [Posted by: TA152H  | Date: 11/23/12 03:27:35 PM]
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7. 
I rather have a company that take risks to go out with a big bang instead of a whimper by not taking a risk. AMD should just take the risk to make Steamroller for next year. The only worst can happen to AMD is ruin their reputation of not able to compete and eventually go out of business. AMD has hit rock bottom, so only they can do is go up which means that they have to take a risk.

This news is stating that AMD is a whimper.
2 3 [Posted by: tecknurd  | Date: 11/23/12 05:31:53 PM]
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13 18 [Posted by: BestJinjo  | Date: 11/23/12 09:23:21 PM]
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6 17 [Posted by: AvONbaCK  | Date: 11/23/12 09:32:25 PM]
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Arrogant? Was that a Freudian slip? I mean you do have a panache for calling successful executives, like Rory Read, crude names when evidently you haven't progressed as far in life and would never be up to the job.

That's very flattering Avon because BestJinjo often gives better analysis than me. I agree with him most of the time including now. We are entering the era of "surround computing" where processors will become "invisible " and a commodity item. They won't be sitting in big beige boxes next to our desk sold for $300. Low power tech is the way of the future, networked and embedded into many things that they're not today. Low power battery operated computers charged by solar energy will also give access to the internet to billions of people in 3rd world countries. The desktop business is shrinking and low power market is growing.
15 17 [Posted by: linuxlowdown  | Date: 11/23/12 10:42:46 PM]
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Or they could become a CPU patent troll.

They have cross-licensing agreements with Intel because Intel needs some of their tech, just as AMD needs Intel's. If they cease to produce CPUs altogether, then they won't need Intel's patents anymore, but (for a time at least) Intel still needs access to theirs (x86-64, in particular).

This turns their loss-making CPU division in to a 100% profitable patent-troll division. Meanwhile, they can continue competing in the GPU space.
3 1 [Posted by: jihadjoe  | Date: 11/24/12 12:15:05 PM]
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hmmm, shrinking of desktop/laptop part is actually much less then the numbers indicate. most households already have one or more, and thing is not if they're i7 or piledrivers or whatever - for average consumer the pc/laptop is good as long as it works fast enough for their needs - so mentioned decline is related to fact that currently many people already have what they need.

however, not everyone has tablet in two sizes and smartphone - me, for instance - i won't buy one until company buys it for me, it's a matter of principle - anyway, my example isn't important. important is that people are in shopping frenzy for tablets and smartphones and not for desktops (less so for laptops - and only cause they last less)

until everything is cloud-based and internet is fast enough and has worldwide wi-fi coverage supporting online cpu/gpu/storage, the self sufficient desktop/laptop with own storage and own cpu/gpu will have it's place and won't be replaced with some 16gb tablet. not completely - there will be some net-independant machines for most users.

in the future, yes, it is probably that online trend will prevail, but we have still some good years until that happen

and the whole mobile market is growing because it's not mature enough - when it reaches the point that everyone has a device that can do what owner needs for next 4-5 years, the market share will stop increasing, maybe even decrease in favour of something newer and trendier
5 2 [Posted by: snakefist  | Date: 11/24/12 07:06:43 AM]
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11 16 [Posted by: linuxlowdown  | Date: 11/24/12 07:25:21 AM]
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no, i'm not fan of that either. but it seems things are moving that way... i was merely claimed that this scenario cannot start for next few years, if ever

i may be wrong, few years ago i was in denial that tablets can make such a boom, and that notebooks and (then future) ultrabooks will always have advantage over touch-screen devices.
4 3 [Posted by: snakefist  | Date: 11/25/12 07:48:51 AM]
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Market Capitalization isn't really important, unless they were thinking about selling stock. It's also about 65x higher.

Revenue is though, and Intel obviously has a lot more coming in, but also a lot more profits. Plus, AMD has to send a lot of that to the fab company, Intel does not.

Intel having the best CPU engineers is dubious, as IBM destroys them in performance with the POWER 7+. Itanium and/or Xeon aren't in the same league. SPARC also shows an edge in some disciplines

The point is, you can beat Intel, but rarely at what they focus on. POWER 7+ is not mainstream, where Intel is really focused on. SPARC caters to a specific market.

The BD design is an example of that too, but poorly executed. Very high integer performance (provided you have the threads) for the size of the die, rather than IPC or single-core performance where they had no chance at all.

It seemed like a good idea, and we do see that outside benchmark where Piledriver does well, but overall, it's unrealized, and even is successful would still be ideal in very specific situations.

APUs are the same. Once you get software using APUs, you've made the CPU edge less important.

Jaguar is another example. Atom is too weak, Core is too big, Jaguar is in the spot between. Intel tries to overlap them, but it's not ideal, and gives AMD an opportunity.
2 4 [Posted by: TA152H  | Date: 11/24/12 09:06:21 AM]
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0 12 [Posted by: sanity  | Date: 11/25/12 02:37:45 AM]
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I think you missed the point. Maybe English isn't your first language, so I'll be more clear.

The design for the BD was intended to offer very high integer performance for the die area, for highly threaded apps.

Now, if you read what I said, this went largely unrealized, but they are still the type of applications where Piledriver does best, and in some cases is very competitive.

As I mentioned, the execution was poor. However, you can see the potential with the design even from a minor refresh like Piledriver. If they execute it correctly, which is always a big "if" with AMD, it will do well in those types of applications.

Bulldozer was an atrocity, Piledriver has at least reached some degree of mediocrity. Still, a whole year with this as their mainstream processor isn't good, and they'll need Jaguar to carry the company.
1 2 [Posted by: TA152H  | Date: 11/25/12 04:14:10 PM]
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Except that the guy who helped them beat Intel the only time in their history they've done so is now back at the compay and is in charge of the CPU division. Jim Keller designed the AMD Athlon/Athlon 64, as well as Apple's A5 and A6 ARM processors. It never looked so good for AMD's big cores from an engineering point of view.

You might want to revise your theory there.
3 2 [Posted by: anubis44  | Date: 11/24/12 11:18:29 AM]
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Jim Keller also co-architected the legendary DEC Alpha processors, and later worked on the remarkable P.A. Semi PWRficient processors.

A shame that they respectively ended up in Intel and Apple's graveyards.
0 0 [Posted by: x  | Date: 06/21/13 11:23:30 PM]
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2 5 [Posted by: tecknurd  | Date: 11/24/12 05:49:36 PM]
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It may be hard to believe, but AMD does not make strategic decisions purlely for your amusement.

AMD's not going bankrupt. It's not going to leave the semi-conductor table with the likes of Jim Keller as head of CPU design. When you have the designer of the DEC Alpha, AMD Athlon/Athlon 64 and the Apple A5 and A6 ARM processors suddenly become head of your CPU division, you're not preparing to throw in the towel.
6 3 [Posted by: anubis44  | Date: 11/24/12 11:15:32 AM]
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3 16 [Posted by: 123  | Date: 11/24/12 08:15:51 PM]
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11 15 [Posted by: linuxlowdown  | Date: 11/25/12 12:20:56 AM]
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8. 
I'm not sure AMD will be around in 2014 in it's current form, the nightmare scenario of AMD's demise is worse than I expected because Intel has already stated that Haswell will be the last interchangeable cpu as they move to soldered cpu's on the motherboard.

this will of course also kill many of the mainboard makers in the process as buying an Intel CPU and mobo becomes the only option which I'm sure will lower prices.... (sarcasm).

so hooray for Intel winning which is leading to all of us losing.... it was fun while it lasted.... sorry to see it end.

RIP AMD.
6 4 [Posted by: clone  | Date: 11/23/12 10:19:31 PM]
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12 17 [Posted by: linuxlowdown  | Date: 11/24/12 12:30:13 AM]
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9. 
GEE....What a surprise!
NOT!
4 3 [Posted by: fdunn  | Date: 11/24/12 03:42:18 PM]
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10. 
Selling off their own FABs was the worst idea ever. No way to catch up.
3 0 [Posted by: KeyBoardG  | Date: 11/26/12 09:01:12 AM]
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11. 
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5 14 [Posted by: utroz  | Date: 11/26/12 09:11:41 PM]
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12. 
AMD has to downsize their company right now in order to stay afloat at the moment. They really have no other option unless they want to go bankrupt. AMD should seriously consider merging with ARM and become one big company, because honestly that's the only way i can see AMD surivivng in the long run if they merge with a company like ARM. And honestly it would prob do wonders for the struggling AMD to merge with a company like ARM where AMD will be able to keep its x86 division and gpu division at the same time develope technology for future ARM based processors in the tablets and smart phones. While ARM can help develope lower TDP's for AMD processors and GPU's. I Think the two companies could greatly come out of a merger like this much stronger and give intel some serious competition. I mean can you imagine an ARM based Cortex cpu with a radeon 7xxx series on die? or a 8 core 4ghz+ AMD cpu with a 45w TDP rating. A new AMD-ARM company would be great to see imo.
4 2 [Posted by: SteelCity1981  | Date: 11/27/12 04:15:51 AM]
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They won't merge. It will be too complicated for two transnational corporations. Anyhow, it's not in ARM's business model. They want to license their designs to as many tech companies as they can without devaluing that license market.
11 12 [Posted by: linuxlowdown  | Date: 11/27/12 05:28:16 AM]
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13. 
What socket will the new steamroller 16 core FX chip use? I was hoping the initial release would be am3/am3+ so I can use it on my am3+ motherboard.
0 0 [Posted by: darkstar01  | Date: 03/07/13 12:30:44 PM]
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