Details on next-generation AMD CPUs leak

While the details sound good, they are also mandatory if AMD wants to be competitive.

As the takeover/buyout rumors continue to surround AMD, a Swedish tech site has details on what it claims is the next generation of CPU architecture, and if the rumors hold up, AMD will be making a badly needed jump forward in technology.

AMD actually gave a hint or two in September 2014, when then-CEO Rory Read told the Deustche Bank 2014 Technology Conference that AMD's next architecture, known as K12, would be codenamed "Zen," and it was the one being developed by Jim Keller, a highly respected CPU designer.

"[For] K12 we went out and got Jim Keller, we went out and got Raja Koduri from Apple, Mark Papermaster, Lisa Su [now CEO of the company]. We are building now our next generation graphics and compute technology that customers are very interested in and they’ll ( referring to the next generation graphics and compute architecture) move to the next generation node and they’ll be ready to go," he said.

Koduri is also a rock star engineer, originally a CTO with AMD who went to Apple and helped pump up the graphics performance of its Ax ARM processors. He returned to AMD in 2012. Papermaster is also a highly respected chip designer, but he's more known for the 2008 lawsuit when he left IBM to join Apple. He wound up leaving Apple in 2010 over "broader cultural incompatibility."

According to, the Zen architecture will be introduced in a family of processors called Summit Ridge, and will be built on a 14nm FinFET process. That's a huge jump from AMD's current 32nm Silicon on Insulator (SoI) design used in the FX desktop processors today. Given Zen isn't expected until 2016, this seems likely. AMD's fabrication company, GlobalFoundaries, should have made the migration to 14nm/16nm FinFET by then.

With this massive reduction in manufacturing process, there should be a logical decrease in power consumption. Summit Ridge processors will have a TDP of "up to 95 watts," which would imply lower power draw. Current FX processors range from 95 watts to 125 watts, higher than Intel's 65 watt TDP.

Another logical claim is that the CPU will support DDR4. DDR4 is hitting the market and Intel already supports it, so it makes sense for AMD to support it in a CPU debuting next year.

A big change will be the option of Simultaneous Multithreading (SMT) replacing the Cluster Multithreading (CMT) first introduced with Bulldozer. Intel uses SMT in its chips, which it calls Hyper-Threading. In SMT, two different instructions are scheduled and executed within a single clock cycle.

AMD chose CMT because it felt the chi would gain from having two separate integer pipelines. In theory it was to give AMD chips greater efficiency but the cores were single-threaded and it led to inefficiencies in multithreading performance.

None of these revelations are particularly shocking. It would be more surprising if AMD didn't make these moves. Its CPUs are way behind Intel and the new Skylake CPU coming later this year will only widen the gap. So hopefully AMD can hang in there and get this new Zen architecture out in due time.

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