AMD Confirms All-New Architecture For Zen 3 EPYC Milan CPUs And Huge IPC Gains

AMD delivered a solid punch across the jaw to Intel with its Zen and Zen+ processor architectures, while the Zen 2 could be seen as crushing body blow. Could Zen 3 deliver a stunning uppercut to pummel its long-time rival into submission? That remains to be seen, but recent comments from Forrest Norrod, AMD's General Manager for the Datacenter and Embedded Solutions Business Group, give us some hope that Zen 3 will deliver another winning performance for the company.

While speaking with TheStreet, Norrod gives us some critical insight into the Zen 3 Milan EPYC processors that will be coming out in 2020. First and foremost, Norrod confirmed that Zen 3 will feature an all-new architecture, rather than being a further refinement of Zen 2 and Zen/Zen+ that came before it.

AMD Epyc 2

With that should come some nice improve in instructions per clock (IPC). AMD was able to eke out a roughly 15 percent uplift in IPC performance going from Zen/Zen+ to Zen 2, which is to be expected with the die shrink from 14nm/12nm to 7nm and evolutionary improvements to the architecture. But with a completely new architecture under the hood, coupled with TSMC's refined 7nm+ process node, we could see an even bigger jump in performance with Zen 3.

According to Norrod, AMD will deliver "right in line with what you would expect from an entirely new architecture." He also added that he is confident in AMD's ability to "drive significant IPC gains each generation." In addition to the IPC gains, the 7nm+ node should allow AMD to ramp speeds slightly, which should result in even greater performance across the board. 

amd epyc roadmap

Single-threaded performance was a sticking point for earlier Zen and Zen+ processors, but Zen 2 has allowed AMD to close the gap significantly with Intel. With Zen 3, we're hoping that the all-new architecture will make any concerns about single-threaded performance a thing of the past for AMD's processors.

AMD is also looking to adopt the tick-tock cadence with respect to new processor platforms, which was once a bedrock of Intel's deployments before it got stuck in a 14nm rut. In that vein, for AMD's server CPUs we’re looking at: 14nm Naples (Tock), 7nm Rome (Tick), 7nm+ Milan (Tock), and 5nm Genoa (Tick).


As AMD goes to smaller process nodes (a la 5nm), we should also start seeing the company further ramp core counts. Current Rome-based CPUs top out at 64 cores/128 threads, and it's expected that Milan will hold the line on core counts. However, it's quite possible that Zen 4 (Genoa) may double that core count. Norrod added that, "There's a number of application areas that just continue to benefit from increasing core counts and increasing compute density." AMD has experienced stronger than expected demand for its 48- and 64-core Rome processors, with particularly strong interest from supercomputer/HPC and virtualized environments.

While Norrod's commentary was primarily focused on enterprise-oriented EPYC processors, much of the underlying architectural improvements will also apply to more plebeian processors like the Ryzen and Ryzen Threadripper families. And we'll be keeping a close eye on those developments, as we expect to hear the first official details from AMD at CES 2020.