AMD Looks For Server Comeback With New EPYC Data Center Processor

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AMD this week officially introduced its first new server processor in five years and promised that the new line would have the market potential, and the product roadmap, that its older generation of chips lacked.

AMD's new EPYC line of x86-compatible processors, expected to be available in June, offer stronger performance than Intel's latest Broadwell-based processors and the ability to bring significant total cost of ownership savings, said Scott Aylor, corporate vice president and general manager for enterprise solutions at the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company.

The EPYC processors signal a new phase for AMD's data center ambitions. "The last time AMD brought a server processor to market was five years ago," Aylor said. "At the time we were in a declining trend in our competitiveness. However, four years ago, we got a new CEO and CTO who made the painful decision to stop producing processors based on that technology."

[Related: AMD Brings In More Virtual Reality Capabilities By Acquiring Nitero's IP And Talent]

AMD focused on the development of a new core design it called Zen, and that concentration has paid off, Aylor said. The Zen architecture offers a 40-percent improvement in the number of instructions it can handle per clock cycle over previous AMD architectures.

The Zen architecture is base on which both the AMD Ryzen commercial desktop processor, introduced earlier this year, and the EPYC server processor is built, Aylor said.

"We've seen a 50-percent improvement in desktop processors with Ryzen, and with EPYC we're on par or better with that improvement, with the potential to exceed the performance of the highest-end Intel x86 processors," he said.

The Zen architecture gives EPYC eight memory controllers per processor to provide the balance needed to manage increasingly-large data sets. It also provides 128 I/O lanes per processor vs. the 40 lanes typical of server processors, Aylor said.

"This lets server makers connect more storage, GPUs, and NICs (network interface cards) directly to the processor," he said.

All told, the innovations combine to provide performance that AMD this week demonstrated to be 1.4-times that of the highest-performing Intel Broadwell processors, Aylor said.

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