AMD's Next Gen Ryzen CPUs And Vega GPUs Transition To GlobalFoundaries 12nm FinFET In 2018

Mark Papermaster

AMD thrust itself back into the conversation at the both the high-end processor and graphics markets with its Ryzen and Vega architectures, respectively, and also laid the groundwork for remaining competitive as it builds upon each one. To that end, AMD announced at the GlobalFoundries Technology Conference that it will be transitioning its "graphics and clients products" from its current 14-nanometer LPP FinFET process to 12nm LP technology in 2018.

Based on what we know up to this point, our guess is that the move to 12nm on the CPU side will be a die shrink of Ryzen as opposed to new processors based on Zen 2. The latter would represent a deviation from AMD's previously disclosed roadmap. Have a look:

AMD Zen Slide

According to a Twitter post by industry analyst Patrick Moorehead, founder of Moore Insights & Strategy, AMD and GlobalFoundries were able to improve AMD's roadmap by swapping out the planned move to 14nm+ in with 12nm instead. Meanwhile, Zen 2 is still expected to be based on a 7nm manufacturing process, as far as we know.
The move to 12nm builds on Globalfoundries' 14nm LPP process that has been in high-volume production since 2016. What's interesting here is the timing. On the opposite side of the tracks, Intel is making progress on Cannon Lake, which is built on a 10nm manufacturing process that it claims is the most advanced in the world, and full generation ahead of other 10nm technologies. It looks like 12nm CPUs from AMD will arrive around the same time as Cannon Lake, with Zen 2 (7nm) perhaps going up against Intel's Ice Lake architecture.

AMD says 12nm FinFET offers up to a 15 percent improvement in circuit density and more than a 10 percent jump in performance over "industry 16nm FinFET solutions." And on the manufacturing side, new constructs have made it relatively easy for GlobalFoundries to shrink the logic area while minimizing how much of the overall design needs reworked.

On the GPU side, Vega has been a mixed bag for AMD. On the plus side, it has a competitive solution to go up against NVIDIA and its Pascal architecture. However, the top-shelf Radeon RX Vega 64 only brings parity to NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 1080, which has been out for more than a year.

Things could get a lot more interesting in the next round. NVIDIA previously said it will sit on Pascal for the remainder of the year before bringing Volta to the consumer sector. That gives AMD time to roll out 12nm GPUs to go up against Volta, the latter of which is currently shipping (for machine learning chores) on TSMC's 12nm FinFET process.

Top Image Source: Patrick Moorehead

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