Date: Tuesday , June 20, 2017
It has been a long time since I went to an AMD CPU Launch and came away with a feeling that everything was looking up for AMD. While we all know that AMD's Ryzen 7 and Ryzen 5 CPUs have been a success in the enthusiast market, where the rubber meets road when it comes to making the big bucks is the datacenter. Gaining ground on Intel in the datacenter is what will "save" AMD. I know it, you know it, AMD knows it.
I was live-Tweeting and put up a news post with the highlights during the EPYC launch event so you can catch up there if you wish, as this is not going to be an article that is a regurgitation of specs and marketing lines. This is an editorial.
After the event we were broken up into groups by group number on our badges, and since my badge had no number, I assumed this was a non-invite and took the time to walk back down Barton Springs Road back to the hotel. It gave me some time to reflect about AMD. I remember the last time I went to an AMD CPU launch event that I was excited about...Bulldozer. The PR guy that I worked with at AMD sat me down before the event and basically told me the product sucked and would never live up to the expectations that AMD had instilled in me. This was no doubt on my mind today as I drove down to Austin. Now surely we have to keep in mind that we already know Ryzen is a success, but to say I was not waiting for AMD to soil the bed on the Enterprise side of things would be a lie. AMD however did not today. In fact AMD thoroughly impressed me with its EPYC presentation, and presentation is not AMD's strong suit. So generally for me to come away from an AMD launch event and be impressed, it has never been because it was of the dog and pony show variety.
AMD is up against what is no less than a juggernaut in the Enterprise server space. Intel, a Goliath, slaughtered AMD's David a long long time ago and has been feasting on those bones ever since. The thing is though, and you likely share this thought, Intel has become the slovenly giant, not the K6 slayer it used to be. Intel is a shade of its former self and quite frankly, we can point some of the blame firmly at AMD for leaving the Enterprise space. But we cannot only blame AMD, Intel has to own the lion's share of it for leaving the enterprise door unlocked.
AMD's Mark Papermaster learned a lot of things from Bulldozer. Mainly, don't screw the pooch that bad again. And with Mark's vision of the Zen architecture, partnered with Lisa Su's leadership, AMD is once again a real CPU company with its Ryzen and EPYC processors.
AMD has aligned itself with captains of industry Hewlett Packard and Dell, both of which showed off some very impressive EPYC server hardware in Austin today, and that quite simply says something about the EPYC processor and platform. These guys are not lining up behind AMD to show off a flop...again. HP and Dell remember Bulldozer just as much as you and I do. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice...
Not only was HP and Dell there to champion AMD EPYC efforts, but so was SuperMicro with an entire portfolio of chassis and platforms ready to go for EPYC. Beyond that we heard from the likes of VMWare, Xilinx, Redhat, Samsung, Windows Server, and Mellanox.
EPYC's product stack for its 7000 series CPUs is pictured below and it is extremely healthy. AMD is going for Intel's jugular. Its top end EPYC 7601 boasts 32C/64T, 128 PCIe lanes, 8-channel DDR4, with a clock up to 3.2GHz. The 8-channel DDR4 and 128 PCIe lanes extend all the way up and down the stack, the only thing that stratifies these EPYC processors is core count and clock. For all intents and purposes, AMD has thrown four of its Ryzen 7 CPUs onto a single (huge) package, and connected it all with Infinity Fabric and called it a day. While that may be a bit of an over-simplification, I really did not write this to sit here and talk about specs as we have known those for a while now.
When you own "none" of the current Enterprise datacenter space, there is nowhere to go but up. But without the right product, AMD would still go nowhere. This is the first time in many years that I have left an AMD CPU event and thought, "These damn guys (and gals) have a chance." Now I can only hope that AMD's salesforce is as relentless as its engineers have been for the last 5 years.
It feels good to feel good about AMD as a company again, instead of just feeling good about an AMD product here and there.
Below is a data dump of the EPYC launch event slides for your perusal . I think they are worth a look.