Until recently Intel used to be the king of the computing processor market while AMD languished on the side-lines with chips that were barely worth speaking about let alone buying. But things have changed, introducing the AMD Zen Architecture.
For the first time in more than five years, AMD has been making some really big moves. Yes, the company didn’t disappear but it was clearly struggling. The only thing that really kept AMD alive was the fact that many gaming consoles (Microsoft XBOX One and Sony Playstation 4) were using AMD APUs as part of the hardware design. Every single CPU that AMD made never measured up to anything Intel manufactured thus cementing Intel’s near monopoly in the computer processor market. Until today with AMD’s new Zen Architecture.
With AMD’s new Zen Architecture AMD has finally come up with something that has made Intel worried. Proof of that is Intel’s recent marketing slides stating that Ryzen and by extension AMD Threadripper chips are simply desktop chips glued together. While true that AMD’s chips are glued together it has shown that the Zen Architecture has the ability to scale far higher than anything Intel has because of this so-called “glue”. That glue being the AMD Infinity Fabric.
Eventually we’re going to need more processor cores, there’s no mistaking this. We are pushing the limits of the x86_64 architecture. Gone are the days of double, even triple, the performance from year to year. We have seen this with how recent Intel chips have been only increasing in performance by 10 to 15% year over year whereas in the past we were seeing leaps and bounds in terms of performance increases. What does this mean? It means that we are hitting the wall in terms of how much computing capacity we can squeeze out of the aging x86 architecture. The fact that the x86 architecture has stood the test of time for as long as it has has proven that the x86 architecture can scale but as with all things, there are limits.
So what do you do?
- You can increase clock speed.
- Throw more cores at the issue.
- Or both.
AMD has opted with the Zen Architecture to increase the amount of cores but as we have seen that strategy only works well when the software is built to handle more cores. Sadly, a lot of software isn’t built to handle a lot of processor cores. Gaming is a perfect example where more cores doesn’t translate to higher performance, high clock speed is what matters. Unfortunately the current crop of AMD Ryzen processors can’t clock above 4 GHz putting them at a disadvantage when it comes to Intel’s Core i7 7700k which can clock as high as 4.5 GHz and if you really push things, you can clock it to as high as 5 GHz. Will Ryzen v2.0 be able to scale the clock speeds higher and be able to push past the 4 GHz barrier? One can only hope.
Meanwhile, for those computing tasks that needs lots and lots of cores AMD is absolutely killing Intel. Situations that may need lots of cores are situations such as graphics and/or video rendering such as Pixar and even data centers and cloud computing systems in which you need to run multiple virtual machines on the same physical hardware. This is where AMD’s Zen Architecture scales far higher than anything Intel has to offer. For the first time in over five years there’s real competition for Intel in parts of the market where Intel had a near monopoly status and Intel should be very worried. Worried not just because of AMD but because of other sectors of the computing industry where Intel used to be king of the hill.
You see, Intel used to be at the top of the heap in so many different ways, not just processors. They used to be real innovators, pushing everything from processors, GPUs, memory, to storage, etc. AMD is making major inroads into the parts of the market where Intel enjoyed near monopoly status. As for memory and storage, other companies are handing Intel their heads. Samsung is the real innovator in terms of storage and SSDs, it’s down right amazing how far they’ve come in such a short amount of time with their 3D NAND. As for GPUs, nVidia is just kicking ass across the industry (both Intel and AMD).
Yeah, Intel better be scared. Their once near monopoly status in many markets is being threatened. This is what happens when you don’t continuously innovate and push technology forward, your competition sneaks up in back of you and whacks you upside the head with a baseball bat. It’s played out in multiple sectors of the economy with different players. We saw it in the United States cell phone market with T-Mobile; AT&T and Verizon didn’t worry about T-Mobile until all of a sudden they got collectively kicked in the balls by T-Mobile. The same thing is playing out right now in the cable TV market, the cord cutting revolution isn’t just some small fringe issue; it’s a full blown epidemic in the cable TV sector. Apple iTunes turned the music industry upside down first with the advent of cheap individual music tracks and now with Apple Music. All of these are examples of what happens when you fall asleep at the wheel, you end up getting hit from behind.