Having just wrapped up a bit ago is AMD’s 2015 Financial Analyst Day (FAD). For AMD FADs are a combination of roadmap updates and number breakdowns for financial analysts and investors, showcasing where the company intends to go and why investors should continue to back the company.

We’ve been covering FAD 2015 throughout the afternoon, and we have seen AMD make a number of announcements and roadmap reveals throughout the event. The individual announcements are below, and meanwhile now that the event has wrapped up we want to provide a quick summary of what AMD is going to be up to over the next two years.

AMD Charts Future Growth Opportunities
AMD’s 2016-2017 x86 Roadmap: Zen Is In, Skybridge Is Out
AMD’s K12 ARM CPU Now In 2017
AMD’s 2016 GPU Roadmap: FinFET & High Bandwidth Memory
AMD To Launch New Desktop GPU This Quarter (Q2’15) With HBM
AMD Announces 6th Generation A-Series APU Branding - Carrizo Due This Quarter
AMD’s 2016-2017 Datacenter Roadmap: x86, ARM, and GPGPU

With AMD’s FAD 2012 being a major event for the company – one where then-CEO Rory Reed announced AMD’s intention to move away from being almost solely PC focused to a mix of PC, semi-custom, and ARM products – FAD 2015 by comparison is a far more tame event. Under the direction of Dr. Lisa Su, AMD is largely executing on the plan they set into motion some time ago. And where they have made changes, such as dropping SeaMicro, AMD has announced those changes in advance. So this year’s FAD does not see AMD announcing major changes to the company’s direction.

So what is AMD’s direction over the next two years? The short answer to that is that the company is focusing on what they believe to be higher margin, higher growth opportunity markets where they can take a chunk of those markets without necessarily having to wrest revenue and sales from existing competitors. Overall AMD sees their three big growth markets as gaming, immersive platforms, and the datacenter market.

At the same time what AMD is looking to avoid is low-margin markets where they can’t do something to set themselves apart. AMD has made it clear that they’re not going to invest in fields such as mobile (smartphones/tablets) or IoT client devices, as while that’s a high growth field, it’s already overweight with competitors who either have the cost control (MediaTek) or the war chest (Intel) to drive margins down to levels AMD cannot sustain. Similarly, AMD is working to reduce their presence in the low-end PC market, as that too suffers from low margins, and is coupled with a poor outlook that has seen AMD get burnt by a significant drop in demand (and consequently revenue) in that market.

The one exception to this of course is semi-custom silicon, which although is not high-margin, allows AMD to leverage their strengths. Nowhere else can you find a vendor with a top-tier GPU profile, custom x86 CPUs, custom ARM CPUs, and the willingness to help customers build customized chips around those building blocks. Semi-custom silicon also presents AMD with some relatively stable revenue, as contracts for semi-custom designs will typically involve supplying chips for a number of years.

To achieve their goals, AMD has set out a roadmap through 2016 and 2017 to develop the technologies necessary to compete in their respective markets, and to deliver the performance necessary for both semi-custom silicon and finished AMD products.

The big item on AMD’s agenda is of course Zen, the company’s forthcoming x86 CPU design. Scheduled to launch in 2016, starting with the high-performance desktop, Zen is a return to fundamentals of sorts for AMD. We do not have performance estimates for Zen, but from an architectural standpoint AMD is making it clear that they are shooting for much higher IPC with Zen than Carrizo/Excavator, touting a 40% increase in IPC.

Zen will ultimately be driving AMD’s entire range of x86 products, top to bottom, datacenter to laptop. AMD’s Dozer and Cat families are at an end, and in the end there will be only Zen. Zen in turn will be part of a long-term process for AMD; the company already has newer iterations of Zen in the works (Zen+) which further improve on the architecture farther out. Coupled with significant gains AMD is expecting to enjoy from FinFET processes, and the company is putting on their optimistic face for their chances in the x86 market.

In fact AMD is backing Zen to the point where other projects have been pushed to the wayside or canceled altogether. AMD’s project Skybridge – a plan for 20nm ambidextrous x86 and ARM CPUs – has essentially been canceled as a result of the combination of lack of customer need for ambidextrous CPUs and the generally poor performance of the 20nm process. Meanwhile Zen’s ARM sibling – K12 – has been pushed back from 2016 to 2017 to allow AMD to complete Zen first, and then roll what they’ve learned from Zen into K12.

For AMD this marks a return to form, and a very aggressive move on the x86 market. After having seen their datacenter market share fall to just 1.5%, for example – with the company admitting they did not invest in high-performance CPUs and it cost them most of their market share – AMD is optimistic that they can recover their datacenter market share through the combination of Zen, K12, and their GPGPU capabilities. This in turn means hitting the datacenter in both the CPU and HPC markets, and even going one step beyond with a forthcoming, very high performance HPC APU that combines all of AMD’s strengths.

Meanwhile on the GPU front, AMD is not providing quite as much visibility on their GPU roadmap, but they are sharing their plans out to 2016. Launching this quarter will be a new AMD desktop product featuring High Bandwidth Memory (HBM), the first such product in the GPU space. HBM promises to significantly increase AMD’s available memory bandwidth and allow their partners to work on more innovative card designs due to the smaller amount of space an HBM solution requires.

2016 in turn will see AMD continue their focus on HBM with the release of products using HBM Gen2, all the while releasing their first GPUs manufactured on a FinFET process. AMD isn’t naming which process they’re using, though either way it would be a significant step up in manufacturing from the current 28nm process their GPUs use. Overall AMD is touting a 2x increase in perf-per-watt for their 2016 GPUs, with most of that gain coming from the shift to FinFET.

Longer term, while AMD is not committing towards any specific products, AMD is strongly hinting at HBM coming to APUs as well. AMD’s APUs have traditionally struggled under the limited amount of bandwidth 128-bit DDR3 provides, so an HBM-enabled APU would help to further improve AMD’s GPU performance on their APUs.

Wrapping things up, the key to AMD’s plans for the next two years will hinge on both properly anticipating the market and in executing on technology. AMD will need to correctly predict opportunities to grow – particularly rapidly expanding markets as opposed to stealing revenue from existing players – and then execute on that in a timely manner with solid hardware across both the CPU and GPU space. AMD believes they have the pieces they need in development, and with 2015 almost half-over the company is finally reaching the point where their earlier transition is complete, so it will be interesting to see how AMD’s next two years unfold. The company is not yet in dire straits, but after losing market share and seeing gross margins suffer, now is the time where AMD needs to reverse their fortunes and reach profitability if they’re to ensure their own future.

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  • Peichen - Wednesday, May 6, 2015 - link

    So anything worth buying will come after 2016? I was looking forward to R9 390 series to see if it will be as good as GTX 970 but if AMD is aiming to match Maxwell's efficiency in 2016, R9 390 would either be hotter or slower.
  • Black Obsidian - Thursday, May 7, 2015 - link

    The 390 being hotter than Maxwell isn't that big a deal. There's a whole continuum in there, from "just barely hotter " to "OMGWTFBBQGTX480". Only the later would be worthy of concern in a performance-oriented desktop.
  • medi03 - Thursday, May 7, 2015 - link

    Even R9 290x beats GTX 970
  • vFunct - Thursday, May 7, 2015 - link

    Does AMD really need to have an "Analysts day" talk that gives away their roadmap and plans to their competitor Intel?

    They really need to learn from Apple and the A7 and just do everything in secret and only announce it when it's done. Apple's competitors are still stunned and trying to react from that announcement.

    AMD needs to spend less time giving away their roadmap, and more time just building the product.

    Their "roadmap" should just be product releases. It would help if they just disappeared for 2 years to work on these products. Come back when its ready.
  • FlushedBubblyJock - Thursday, May 7, 2015 - link

    They were all working on Mantle. mow that's dead, so now they're all working on Liquid VR.

    They all have their 3D goggles on all day and are "optimizing" between pron.
  • FlushedBubblyJock - Thursday, May 7, 2015 - link

    They're all watching Star Trek in Liquid VR and speaking "Vulkan" to each other, so expect 1-2% speed optis for 3D, and some forlorn nostalgia for mantle.
    After all that they sit and contemplate their belly buttons, to focus, as zen is coming.
  • costeakai - Thursday, May 14, 2015 - link

  • ppi - Thursday, May 7, 2015 - link

    Company in AMD's situation cannot really afford to do that. Or to be more precise, its management, unless they want to be kicked out.

    See Intel, we also know about Skylake in this level of detail quite a bit ahead.
  • ppi - Thursday, May 7, 2015 - link

    I must say, I like the overall strategy they laid out. I am very very cautiously optimistic.

    1) I am glad they said they are staying out of mobile for now. Until K12, they won’t really have anything extra to offer, and unless K12 scales well down to 2W, they won’t have it either. In that market, you either differentiate (Qualcomm – modems and custom cores), or have low costs using standard ARM architecture (MediaTek, Samsung – that also leverages its manufacturing edge).

    To support their view, just look at nVidia (that just announced it leaves the market) and Intel (that 100% subsidizes its products, just to get foothold – the failure went so far, that they have hidden mobile segment in their segment reporting)

    2) Releasing Zen as performance part first is a good idea, because that is market where (i) there are best margins, and (ii) they still have a lot of credibility in that market or at the very least they cooperate with partners, that could help them to some design wins. Therefore, if they manage to offer parts, that are competitive with Intel’s upper-midrange, it might be quite a win for them.

    My prediction is, that if they stuff 8 cores in 95W envelope, they will likely have lower single-threaded performance than Intel’s best, and multi-threaded may be better. Given how overrated single-threaded performance is (except for pre-DX12/Mantle games), it might be reasonable trade-off.

    At the same time, those who remember K7 vs. PIII times will recall, how all of sudden was Intel able to squeeze quite a lot of performance from their chips (though it was due to 180nm upgrade vs 250nm).

    The key question here are yields and actual quality of the manufacturing process. If, and that is a big if, it works well, AMD finally won’t have such a huge process disadvantage now. But AMD just has to take this bet, the alternative is really going bust this time.

    3) AMD’s APUs always had better performance than Intel’s, but let’s be honest, they never really had punch to play modern games and higher settings. Now with HBM and hopefully more efficient architecture overall, they may be able to release APUs, that will be truly gaming-capable. This may secure them some design wins, assuming the CPU part is not resource hog (we will see Carizzo).
  • jabber - Thursday, May 7, 2015 - link

    I'll wait for disappointment day...oh sorry, I mean launch day!

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