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AMD CTO: We Now Have A 'Razor's Edge' To Fight Against Intel

AMD CTO Mark Papermaster tells CRN why the company now has a "razor's edge" to compete against Intel and how it plans to win more market share in the server space.

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Why are 7-nanometer processors important to AMD?

You first have to go back and look at the FinFET [fin field-effect transistor] device, the vertical transistor. We launched that starting in 2015 and across the board in 2016. It's an excellent device, because it scales very well, so you can run it at high-performance very efficiently, and it has very good characteristics if you might be in a battery application where you need very low leakage. It's proven to be incredibly robust. So we looked at 10nm, and it was an incremental step. It didn't provide for us the kind of performance per watt of energy, it didn't provide us the amount of gain we were looking for, so we made a bet to skip that and to go to 7nm. 7nm is a full-step new node, and it allows the device to shrink, as well as [cut] the power dissipation down significantly.

Can you quantify that at all?

If you want to run at the same speed you were in the previous node, you can save half the energy. So you're really getting double the performance per watt of energy expended in a previous node. That's significant.

AMD CEO Lisa Su was talking on the last earnings call about the timeline for when the products are coming out. You have 7nm Vega later this year in the fall?

We do. We originally planned it for 2019, but Lisa Su, our CEO, announced at Computex, they're actually pulling it in to the second half of 2018.

How did AMD do that?

The manufacturing for 7nm is very solid. The [foundries are] incredibly focused on 7nm, and what we found — it was indeed a huge challenge for 7nm. Because the dimensions are shrinking, very, very small, it takes additional manufacturing steps, meaning new masking levels. So it's a lot of complexity when you go to 7nm, but what we did at AMD is the teams did a great job of creating a partnership of our design community with the foundry who owns design of that transistor with the electronic design automation industry, the EDA. They manufacture all of our computer-aided design programs, and turns out, they had to be the third leg of the stool because it was such a difficult lift. It changed even the automation tools that are required to put together these types of complex leading-edge designs.

 
 
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