Here is some bad new for Intel—rival AMD is not resting on its laurels. Having just ported its Zen 2 architecture over to its EPYC processor line for servers, AMD took the opportunity during the launch event to briefly discuss its future roadmap, noting that the design phase for its next-generation Zen 3 architecture is complete.
Before we get into that, let’s have a look at the Zen architecture to date. The original Zen architecture, built on a 14-nanometer FinFET manufacturing process, launched in 2017 and put AMD back in the game, so to speak. Prior to Zen, Intel pretty much dominated the high-end processor scene.
A year later, AMD launched another round of processors under the Zen+ banner, which shifted manufacturing to a 12nm node. It was a mostly minor update, but did pave the way for higher clocks, improved power efficiency, and better performance overall.
More recently, AMD came out swinging with Zen 2 products, the first to utilize a 7nm manufacturing process. It arriveed initially in the hands of consumers through AMD’s Ryzen product family, and will now start rolling out to server clients via EPYC. No small deal, both Google and Twitter are going to implement these updated EPYC processors in their respective data centers, a move that sent AMD’s stock price soaring.
While not yet old news, AMD’s chief technology officer, Mark Papermaster, talked about AMD’s intent to supply the industry with an “insatiable demand” for its processors, and how the company “can’t let up” and “won’t let up.” That is where Zen 3 comes into play, and also Zen 4 (no, it’s not too early to talk about Zen 4).
“We are always working on the next designs while we are doing our current design,” Papermaster said.
As it pertains to that, Zen 3’s design is already finished. It will be an iterative upgrade based on a 7nm+ manufacturing process when it arrives next year. According to Papermaster, its anticipated roll out is “right on track.” That is not something to take for granted, given the trouble Intel had getting to 10nm, which it is just now getting to (in volume) with Ice Lake.
“We don’t stop there. We already have our engineers in the works on Zen 4. So it’s really fundamental for us to keep momentum in the industry,” Papermaster said. “We have focused on showing the industry we have a roadmap that we can deliver to enterprise and data center as promised.”
Information surrounding Zen 4 is more difficult to come by, because it is further down the road. It’s possible that AMD could shift to a 6nm node through TSMC, though a 5nm node could conceivably end up being the foundation for Zen 4 as well. We will have to wait and see. One thing we do know, however, is that AMD has not intention of slowing down.