The “Zen” micro-architecture is a tremendously important project for Advanced Micro Devices. If the new technology is successful, AMD will become a viable developer of central processing units again. If not, the company will have troubles with surviving. Fortunately, “Zen” is a completely new micro-architecture that promises to be very competitive. Apparently, the management team gave a lot of freedom with the new CPU design.
“It is the first time in a very long time that we engineers have been given the total freedom to build a processor from scratch and do the best we can do,” said Suzanne Plummer, a director of design engineering at AMD and also a veteran Austin chip engineer, who heads development of a “Zen”-based processor, in an interview with MyStatesman.
Last week AMD announced that Jim Keller, a legendary processor engineer who headed development of “Zen” micro-architecture, had left the company. It is believed that he has completed the work on the first two iterations of the “Zen” technology. He also worked on the “K12” architecture, which is compatible with the ARMv8-A instruction set architecture.
“[Zen] is a multi-year project with a really large team,” said Ms. Plummer. “It’s like a marathon effort with some sprints in the middle. The team is working very hard, but they can see the finish line. I guarantee that it will deliver a huge improvement in performance and (low) power consumption over the previous generation.”
Ms. Plummer has worked at AMD since 2002, when the company took over Alchemy Semiconductor.
The first processor based on “Zen” micro-architecture is code-named “Summit Ridge”. The chip is expected to hit the market in October, 2016, and aim at high-end desktops and servers. The new cores will offer at least 40 per cent performance improvement at the same clock-rate compared to existing cores.
“Everything is riding on ‘Zen’,” said analyst Nathan Brookwood with Insight 64. “They are shooting for performance parity with where (arch-rival) Intel will be. AMD understands that they have to succeed with ‘Zen’. If ‘Zen’ fizzles, they will really have to do a lot of running around.”
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KitGuru Says: “Zen” will be AMD’s first major new design since 2011. It has to be successful. If it is not successful, AMD’s share in the market of CPUs will shrink even further.