AMD Claims Zen Architecture Powering Ryzen Processors Will Have A 4 Year Product Roadmap

If things go to plan, AMD will return to its former glory among power users in the processor space when it releases Ryzen in a couple of a months. Ryzen is the culmination of four years of development at AMD, and that happens to be the same amount of time the chip designer expects its forthcoming CPU architecture to be relevant. After four years, AMD will move onto something else.

We know this because PCWorld had a chat with Mark Papermaster, AMD's chief technology officer, who told the site AMD was aiming for a four-year lifespan out of Ryzen. Essentially what AMD wants to do is release processors that have a bigger impact on performance compared to the previous generation. It is a different approach from Intel, which for many years followed a two-year "tick-tock" release cadence with less of a performance gap in between CPU architecture releases.


"We're not going tick-tock. Zen is going to be tock, tock, tock," Papermaster said.

A "tick" in Intel's tick-tock cadence represents a CPU release built on a smaller process technology than its predecessor, whereas a "tock" is a completely new architecture released on the same manufacturing process. For example, Intel's 14nm Broadwell architecture is a tick, as it is a refined version of Haswell (22nm). What came after Broadwell is Skylake (14nm), a new architecture built on the same 14nm process node as Broadwell, making it a tock. The performance gap between Skylake and Haswell is greater than it is between Broadwell and Haswell.

To be clear, Papermaster is not saying that AMD will release a batch of Ryzen CPUs and then make users wait four years before new processors arrive. AMD will likely release new CPUs every year, but the improvements it makes to Ryzen with each release will go beyond minor upgrades consisting of power efficiency improvements with a few performance optimizations sprinkled in.

Of course we're getting ahead of ourselves here. Before any of this can come to fruition, Ryzen has to live up to the hype. Whether or not it will is something we'll find out in just a couple of months. If it does, one good thing to note is that AMD plans to be ready with available stock.

AMD AM4 Motherboard

"We're not going to do a paper launch," Jim Anderson, senior vice president and general manager of AMD's Computing and Graphics business, added. "We've done that before. We're not going to mess with it."

Ryzen is scheduled to release in March. For enthusiasts who are hot to trot with Ryzen, there will be plenty of high-end accompanying hardware to go with AMD's new CPUs, as AMD has worked with all of the big names in the motherboard market to have AM4-based boards ready to go.