AMD’s Reply To Intel Calling Naples (EPYC) 4-Glued-Together-Desktop-Dies

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Jul 18, 2017

A few days ago I published Intel’s cutting response to the Naples die (EPYC) so its only fair that we hear AMD’s side of the argument as well. The response was actually given a few weeks back but posted in the public domain recently – leading us to believe that AMD was well aware of the new Intel slogan of “4-glued-togather-desktop-dies” and chose to make the response more publicly accessible to counter the recent press Intel received and fair play to them.

AMD’s cool and collected reply to Intel: Security enhancements, bandwidth over-provisioning, enterprise exclusive features and more, this is not a glued together desktop processor

I broke the story about Intel’s response on the 12th of July and AMD published the video on the 14th, but the actual event took place a couple of weeks back on June 19th. Since Scott directly addresses the ‘4-Glued-Togather-Desktop-Die’ theory, we can safely assume that AMD knew what was coming. Before we go any further, here is the relevant portion from the EPYC Tech Day:

Scott directly addresses the first and foremost allegation without prompting:

“There’s a theory out there that EPYC is just 4 desktop processors glued together. When you look at throughout the presentations today, from Mike Clark, about the memory sizes and features that he has built into the core and when you hear from Kevin the security enhancements that are in there, when you hear from Jerry about the over provisioning of memory bandwidth between the devices, you hear from Sam determinism features that aren’t available from the competitor that were built for enterprise. Hopefully you will realize this is not a glued together desktop processor.” – Scott Aylor, SVP and GM Enterprise Solutions

I have to say that AMD was much more restrained and collected in their response and it speaks volumes about their confidence level. Intel is pretty much a monopoly to take on and everything we have seen so far (Intel has typically always ignored the competition) leads me to believe that AMD’s x86 comeback has Intel rattled.

“Could we have built a monolithic part? Absolutely. But it would have involved trade-offs that would have dragged our performance down because it would have been too large and too difficult to manufacture. Breaking Moore’s law is what we did with Infinity Fabric. Now thinking about that architectural innovation – so what? How do we think about it providing real performance and real demonstrable value”- Scott Aylor, SVP and GM Enterprise Solutions

AMD’s EPYC is based on a revision of Zen – B1 to be exact. Is it architecturally inferior to Intel? Yes – in HPC. Does it actually matter in the real world? No, not in the slightest. One of the biggest known weaknesses of Zen is that it has a 2x 128-bit FMA implementation which is equivalent to the Sandy Bridge uArch. Haswell had a 2x 256-bit FMA implementation and Intel Skylake-SP has a 2x 512-bit FMA implementation. This results in 8 DP FLOPS/clock for Sandy Bridge/Zen, 16 DP FLOPS per clock for Haswell/Broadwell and 32 DP FLOPs/clock for Skylake-SP with AVX-512. This is roughly 4x the performance of Zen’s architecture and clearly the superior choice for HPC tasks.

That said, AMD has been very upfront about the fact that Zen wont be good for all tasks and most of the work out there isn’t done in AVX 512 and wont be for quite some time. And if you were to divide the market into the HPC and datacenter/server segment, the latter is much much larger. Granted the Zen architecture has a weakness in terms of HPC, but this is quickly overcome by the perf per $ advantage as well as the fact that servers and data-centers do not need precision this high and Zen will do just fine over there. AMD’s EPYC is without a shadow of a doubt, a break in Intel’s monopoly and signals a very real AMD x86 comeback.

The slide from Intel proclaims lack of an ecosystem for EPYC and cites an article that is now outdated.

The biggest clients in this area are the Big Seven+1 (Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent, and AT&T) and representatives from several major companies took to the stage and expressed support for the platform including Big Seven + 1 members. Baidu, Microsoft, Supermicro, Dell, Xilinx, HPE, Dropbox, Samsung, and Mellanox were all there. AMD also has the support of OEMs like Dell and HPE, but Sugon also enables AMD to tap into the ODM market. Xilinx and Mellanox are also key partners that might help offset Intel’s goals with Purley’s integrated networking and FPGA features. The simple fact of the matter is that EPYC is disruptive. I have talked about how AMD’s Zen is pretty much a check to Intel before and this hasn’t changed.