Yields are one of the more important variables in the life-cycle of any silicon product and on first glance it appears that AMD has run into quite a bit if good luck as far as they are concerned. According to a report from Bitsandchips.it, they are currently enjoying yields upwards of 80% which basically means that more than 80% of the Zen dies fabricated have all 8 cores fully functional. This is of course something that will have quite an impact on the financials of the company as they will be able to increase their profit margins.
Report: Ryzen die yields are over 80%, EPYC processors can be offered at lower ASP to corporate customers
While at first glance it appears that AMD is having unexpected high yields, this is actually not completely true. The yields are excellent, yes, but entirely expected. Firstly, the process they are using is the 14nm process which has had more than a year to completely mature and secondly, the die itself is quite small so yields will naturally be higher (conventional wisdom dictates that the smaller the die, the larger the yield). Since die size is one of the more significant factors in determining yield, I am sure that the company was well aware of this fact when it decided on the exact size. That said, however, the effect of these high yields can only have a positive effect for the company.
Since the yields are above 80%, this means that the company will be able to increase in profits in two ways: either by decreasing the ASP (Average Selling Price) of the derivative products and shipping more volume and therefore larger profit, or, by simply increasing its profit margin on the products and keeping price the same. Looking at AMD’s core philosophy however, we may expect the silicon giant to go with the former approach and drop ASP all round. This means that products such as Naples which employ more than 1 core will also see a proportional ASP drop.
This is excellent news, since it means that AMD will be able so sell large MCM processors like Naples / EPYC to companies at a much lower price than one you would normally expect for such a large processor. This also means that coupled with AMD’s extensive Wafer Supply Agreement which was amended to act as the ultimate insurance against foundry disaster, the company is in a very good place as far as fabrication is concerned. Dropbox has already showed significant interest in Naples and ThreadRipper:
“Dropbox is currently evaluating AMD EPYC CPUs in-house, and we are impressed with the initial performance we see across workloads in single-socket configurations,” said Akhil Gupta, vice president of infrastructure at Dropbox. “The combination of core performance, memory bandwidth, and I/O support make EPYC a unique offering. We look forward to continuing to evaluate EPYC as an option for our infrastructure.”
AMD’s Zen architecture is all the rage these days and we finally have a few precious details about the physical specifications of the processor itself. It turns out that the 4-core/8-thread Ryzen CPU is going to be 44mm². This is around 10% smaller than a comparable Skylake quad-core CPU which usually clocks in at 49mm². Not only is the Zen die size smaller than the Skylake variant, it is also able to pack in a larger L2 cache and L2 density, at 512KB and 1.5mm²/core respectively. In comparison, the comparable Skylake core only has 256 KB of L2 cache and a density of 0.9mm²/core. That said, a smaller die size does not equal a better processor, it simply means a more compact footprint.
Keep in mind however, that competing Intel architecture has a double precision IPC of 16 FLOPs per Clock with Skylake as well as 2x 256 bit FMA whereas Zen only has 8 FLOPs per clock and 2* 128 bit FMA. This means it will have to work quite a bit harder (think double) to compete in the HPC sector where double precision is demanded. This means that Zen will be limited to breaking Intel’s monopoly in 1) the mobility 2) desktop and 3) the server market. The TAM (Total Available Market) of these segments is still pretty huge, so it doesn’t change much. So far and on paper, it does seem like Intel retains the architectural superiority in all regards, when talking clock for clock but a real life showdown has much more to do with the price/performance point as well as attached costs – something Zen based processors look poised to blow away the competition in.