AMD rumored to double server core count on Epyc chip

The next generation of AMD’s Epyc server processors is expected to pack 64 cores on one chip.

AMD has staged quite the comeback with its Zen architecture, sold under the Ryzen brand for desktops and Epyc brand for server processors. After years as an also-ran, the Zen architecture is showing true competitiveness with Intel’s best, and at a far cheaper price tag.

AMD just introduced its Epyc server processor line as the successor to its Opteron brand, but it is already reportedly working on the next wave of chips. Canard PC Hardware, a French hardware site with a good track record of accuracy, claims to have obtained specifications for AMD's next generation of Epyc processors.

Not much has changed in what will likely be called Epyc 2. It still supports up to 128 PCIe lanes and 8-channel DDR4 memory, although the memory speed is reportedly being bumped up from 2666MHz to 3200MHz.

The big change is the core count. It will double from 32 cores in the current generation to 64 cores. And with two threads per core, one Epyc 2 processor can execute 128 threads. Also, the amount of L3 cache will jump from 64MB to 256MB.

This certainly widens the lead AMD had in cores over Intel’s Xeon. The top Xeon has 22 cores, with two threads per core, and fewer PCI Express lanes. No doubt Intel will close that gap, though. 

Speculating about the next-gen Epyc chip

I have to wonder what that chip will look like. The Epyc is already a physically sizable chip, almost the size of an iPod. And it’s not a pure 32-core design. It’s actually four eight-core dies connected via high-speed interconnections. Doubling the core count and quadrupling the cache could result in a chip the size of an iPad Mini.

It also strikes me as a bit soon to be releasing a new generation of chips, as the first generation is only a few months old and servers have not been released. As Dean McCarron of Mercury Research told me, it takes 12 to 18 months to qualify a new server, and Epyc is an entirely new server. Yes, it’s a x86, but it’s a whole new chip design, chipset, and motherboard. Server vendors are going to be their usual cautious selves in testing the new hardware before selling it. 

That’s why there are no real sales figures yet, and McCarron doesn’t expect there to be any until mid-2018. Canard did not give a release time table for the Epyc 2, but it can’t come too soon or it will effectively Osborne the first generation.

Still, it’s very encouraging to see AMD showing some fight again.

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