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7-nm to Be the Next Long Node for AMD

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Nov. 20 2020, Updated 3:34 p.m. ET

AMD’s product strategy for 7-nm node

Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) is moving fast on its product and process technology ramp. It has started volume production of its Zen Plus PC processors on Global Foundries’ 12-nm (nanometer) node and is set to start volume production on 7-nm nodes in 2019.

However, AMD’s product rollout on 7-nm is different from the 14-nm rollout. At the JPMorgan Global Technology, Media, and Communications Conference, AMD’s chief executive officer, Lisa Su, stated that unlike the 14-nm node, which started with PCs and then server processors, the seven-nm node would start with server processors and then move to PCs.

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Behind AMD’s node transition 

Lisa Su clarified that future nodes wouldn’t necessarily start with server processors. In this case, AMD introduced Zen Plus on the 12-nm node as the desktop roadmap needs a refresh every 12 months. However, the server refresh rate is slow because of lengthy adoption cycles. Thus, it made business sense to move to a node, like the 7-nm, which brought a significant performance leap node instead of a refresh like the 12-nm node.

AMD plans to start sampling its seven-nm server processors in H2 2018 and start volume production in 2019. This would, for the first time, put AMD in line or even ahead of Intel (INTC) in manufacturing technology, as the latter is unlikely to start volume production on its 10-nm node before 2019.

Is AMD’s process advantage sustainable?

As Moore’s law slows, the sustainability of this technology advantage is being questioned. Moore’s law states that every two years there will be a node shrink that will double transistor density and bring performance, power, and cost advantages.

At the Cowen Technology, Media & Telecom Conference, AMD’s chief technology officer, Mark Papermaster, stated that the node advantage is sustainable, as the ecosystem requires the performance and density advantages new nodes bring. AMD and its rivals are looking to improve performance and efficiency beyond Moore’s law. We will look into this next.

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