If you thought the competition between AMD was Intel was already reaching a fever pitch, hang onto your hat, the best is yet to come. With Ryzen, AMD put itself back into contention in the high-end market where enthusiasts like to loiter. But Ryzen is not the end game for AMD, it is just the beginning. Looking ahead, AMD is planning a die shrink to 7 nanometers for its Zen 2 CPUs, which it will tape out later this year.
A tape out is when a company like AMD finalizes its semiconductor design before sending it off for manufacturing. Since we are already approaching the halfway mark of 2017, AMD must be seeing promising progress in going from a 14nm FinFET manufacturing process to 7nm if it's expecting to get there by the end of the year. This is a significant development, especially as Intel gets closer to releasing 10nm Cannonlake processors.
More than just speculation, AMD CEO Dr. Lisa Su confirmed the company's plans at the 5th annual J.P. Morgan Global Technology, Media, and Telecom Conference.
"Our goal is to be very competitive in terms of our long-term roadmap. If you look at the foundry’s 7nm roadmap compared to some of the other technologies out there it’s actually really competitive. I think the gap between the foundry roadmap and the Intel roadmap has gotten a lot closer. Our goal is to be aggressive with 7nm technology. We will be doing tape outs later this year and as we get closer to production will give more insights there. But the idea is to be more competitive throughout the portfolio."
Dr. Su's comments come a week after AMD provided further details on the company's CPU and GPU strategies at is Financial Analyst Day event. It was at that event when AMD launched its first Vega graphics card, a part called Frontier Edition that is aimed at professionals.
Just as AMD is planning a tape out to 7nm for its processor line, the same is true of its graphics architecture. The company expects to have an initial 7nm Navi design finalized by the end of of the year as well.
In both cases, a tape out to 7nm does not mean that a product launch is right around the corner. There are still manufacturing challenges that will need to be addressed. According to AMD's slides, if everything goes well Zen 2 and Navi products will hit the market towards the end of 2018 and carry the company through 2019, after which it will make the jump to Zen 3 and a new generation GPU that is yet to be named.