AMD Ryzen PRO Family Announced With On-Chip Memory And Virtualization Encryption Engine


AMD has been on a tear lately. After all of the hype and anticipation, AMD's Zen architecture has proven to be the real deal, and not just on the desktop. Last week saw the launch of AMD's EPYC 7000 series processors for data center servers, and now the chip designer is formally introducing its Ryzen PRO lineup. In case it its not clear at this point, Zen is a multi-headed threat that is intent on competing with Intel in virtually every market segment.

In this case, AMD's Rzyen PRO desktop chips are tweaked versions of the company's consumer-based Ryzen processors, with the PRO parts taking aim at Intel's vPro lineup. What really makes the PRO processors stand out from regular Ryzen chips is the focus on integrated security and encryption features. We will get to those features in a moment, but first let's take a look at the full lineup.

AMD Ryzen PRO Processors
Click to Enlarge - Source: AMD

For the most part, AMD's Ryzen PRO processors line up neatly against the non-PRO variants in terms of cores, threads, clock speeds, and cache. For example, the Ryzen 7 PRO 1700 features the same base specs as the Ryzen 7 1700, but with added security and management features for enterprise deployment.

What enterprise customers should take away from this is that AMD is providing a full range of solutions based on use case and budget. And not to dwell on the Ryzen 3 PRO, but its worth noting that Intel does not make any vPro-enabled Core i3 processors. With that in mind, AMD is poised to capitalize in a market segment that Intel essentially oversteps.

AMD Ryzen PRO Reliability
Click to Enlarge - Source: AMD

Now let's get to what separates AMD's Ryzen PRO from its non-PRO counterparts. For one, Ryzen PRO processors are cherry-picked parts. Given the mission critical nature of workstation workloads, reliability is key. To that end, only the highest yield wafers get carved into Ryzen PRO processors. These chips come with an 18-month stability promise and 24-month availability. What that means is that AMD guarantees that all Ryzen PRO processors will be available for two years after launch without any changes to software, which enables business customers to more easily deploy and maintain new systems.

AMD also backs its Ryzen PRO processors with a 36-month warranty. That is three times as long as the consumer variants, which come with a 12-month backing.  So not only are business clients buying processors cut from the highest yields, they're also getting an extended warranty from AMD.

For management duties, Ryzen PRO platforms support DASH (Desktop and Mobile Architecture for System Hardware). This is essentially a remote management protocol, one that has been supported by AMD for several years.

AMD Ryzen PRO Security
Click to Enlarge - Source: AMD

Where the Ryzen PRO family really separates itself from the non-PRO variants is with the baked in security features at the silicon level. AMD has carried over features from its previous professional CPUs, such as secure boot, fTPM (firmware Trust Platform Module) 2.0, and so forth. What's new for this round, however, is Transparent Secure Memory Encryption (TSME) support.

AMD has a white paper (PDF) that explains its memory encryption, but what it boils down to is a powerful architectural feature that allows for main memory encryption for an operating system or hypervisor. In this way, customers are protected against physical hardware attacks, and in some cases they're even protected from rogue administrators. And the importance of memory encryption can't be overstated for NVDIMMs, which store data even when powered down.

Ryzen PRO also incorporates Secure Encrypted Virtualization (SEV) support. This integrates main memory encryption capabilities with the existing AMD-V virtualization architecture to support encrypted virtual machines. How this benefits clients is that it keeps them protected both from physical threats and other virtual machines, or even the hypervisor itself. With malware strains such as WannaCry demonstrating the ability to worm their way through networks, this is a big deal for customers.

AMD Ryzen PRO Takeaways
Click to Enlarge - Source: AMD

As you might imagine, AMD is pretty excited about this launch, as it should be.

"Today marks another important step in our journey to bring innovation and excitement back to the PC industry: the launch of our Ryzen PRO desktop CPUs that will bring disruptive levels of performance to the premium commercial market," said Jim Anderson, senior vice president and general manager, Computing and Graphics Group, AMD. "Offering a significant leap in generational performance, leadership multi-threaded performance, and the first-ever 8-core,16-thread CPU for commercial-grade PCs, Ryzen PRO provides a portfolio of technology choices that meet the evolving needs of businesses today and tomorrow."

AMD says that commercial client desktops with Ryzen PRO inside will start shipping to businesses in the second half of this year, followed by a Ryzen PRO mobile launch in the first half of 2018.