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How AMD Removed the Technology Gap

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Manufacturing process technology gap between AMD and rivals

Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) has been working on a long-term technology roadmap that revolves around three areas: gaming, immersive, and data center. But in 1H15, AMD lost market share to NVIDIA (NVDA), in the GPU (graphics processing unit) space, and to Intel (INTC), in the APU (application processing unit) space, lagging behind in product update launches and in manufacturing processes.

How AMD Removed the Technology Gap

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AMD moves to FinFET process technology

At the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference in March 2016, AMD Chief Technology Officer Mark Papermaster stated that the company had relied on “boutique technologies, where AMD had defined a special recipe that we needed for our chips.” This did not deliver returns.

Hence, the company has now shifted its manufacturing to the industry standard 14nm–16nm FinFET (fin-shaped field effect transistor), on which Intel builds its chips. The FinFET technology should reduce cost per bit and enhance the performance and power efficiency of AMD’s chips.

Microprocessors

On the microprocessors front, AMD is developing Zen architecture on 14nm technology in order to compete with Intel’s 14nm microprocessors. Due to technical issues with the 10nm technology, Intel has delayed the launch of its 10nm Cannonlake processors to 2017 and will instead launch a 14nm Kaby Lake processor in 2016. This will likely level the playing field between AMD and Intel in manufacturing process technology—at least till Cannonlake is launched.

Graphics

On the graphics front, AMD will manufacture its Polaris graphics cards on the 14 nm process node at Global Foundries, while NVIDIA will manufacture Pascal graphics cards on the 16 nm process node at Taiwan’s (EWT) TSMC (TSM). This will bring AMD ahead of NVIDIA in terms of manufacturing technology. This transition to FinFET will remove the process node gap, and competition should stiffen in design and price.

Continue to the next part for a closer look at AMD’s major strategy moving forward—to regain its lost market share through a dynamic and timely product roadmap.

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