Are AMD CPUs Finally Back in the Workstation Game?

26 Oct, 2017 By: Alex Herrera

Herrera on Hardware: After a rise and fall a decade ago, AMD now looks to Zen as the means to get back into the workstation CPU business. Will the company be successful and put the pressure on Intel? It’s looking that way, but the deal’s not done.


It’s also worth nothing that Zen should be positioned as well to attack mobile workstations in addition to desksides, but that opportunity will lag as AMD’s Zen platform for mobiles, Raven Ridge, is third out of the chute following Summit Ridge (desktops) and Naples (servers).

This illustration indicates where Zen CPU brands can fit in today’s deskside workstation product spectrum.

Lining up new Ryzen brands against the historically popular Intel CPUs shows AMD can not only compete with Intel, but it can do so at each traditional workstation product tier. Now, the point of these side-by-side metrics is not to illustrate any minor edge one has over the other. Even if it were, a small advantage in one specification would not indicate any overall superiority on its own, as the impact of having a higher frequency versus more cores varies greatly when running different CAD workloads (previously addressed in this column). Furthermore, all would be outweighed by any significant inferiority in the internal core microarchitecture of either. And in the case of Xeon Scalable and Epyc, there are fundamental implementation differences that can impact throughput.

Rather, the point is to show that given comparably efficient microarchitectures (which benchmarking has generally verified), AMD now has a workstation CPU lineup that can potentially and legitimately threaten Intel at every market tier. (It’s worth noting I’ve intentionally omitted Intel’s new Core i9 SKUs, which bridge the gap up from Core i7, as they have not been adopted for workstations as of yet.)

Entry 1S CAD workstation CPUs: comparing performance-focused specifications of Ryzen 7 vs. Core i7. Data from AMD and Intel.

Premium 1S CAD workstation CPUs: comparing performance-focused specifications of Threadripper vs. Intel’s Xeon W. Data from AMD and Intel.

2S CAD workstations: comparing performance-focused specifications of Epyc and Xeon Scalable. Data from AMD and Intel.


1 2 3 

About the Author: Alex Herrera

Alex Herrera

Add comment


Re: Are AMD CPUs Finally Back in the Workstation Game?
by: roadkill
October 28, 2017 - 4:34pm
I have just finished a report on nvidea stomping on server makers swapping retail gpus for pro gpuS. Perhaps you underestimate price sensitivity in the allegedly "money no object" cad world? You omit a fundamental imo - the certain synergies between zen & vega. amd make the whole solution, not half each like nvidea and intel. Especially exciting areas for serious cad imho are the parallel features of vega hbcc AND native amd raid nvme. Together they amount to ~unlimited, or at least greatly extended, gpu memory/address space. 4x 256GB evo nvme SSD @$US~140 ea.& an asus 4x nvme 16 lane adaptor ~$US225 yields a 1TB raid 0 array w/ ~12.5GB/s SeqRead & 8GB/s S write for big chunks of data like page swapping. Vega hbcc can combine this resource with spare system memory and the gpu ram as a cache pool, and intelligently manage them to simulate larger installed gpu memory. The largest gpu is currently 32GB & I bet it aint cheap. Such gpu ram cache constrained apps are quite common I hear. I would think TR a sweetspot for cad stations. 64 lanes suffices for 2x 16 lane GPU & & 28 lanes free after the 4 lane chipset. If that's sufficient, why endure the extra latency of 2 more zeppelin die of epyc. If you wanna get wild about the raid memory extender idea above, and go to 7x nvme in a raid array, it scales well so that's fine, but you need the extra lanes of epyc. imo, the epyc shortage is not supply, its demand. There are no production problems. They are just stretched versions of well proven ryzen. I think just the pilot epyc/vega stuff they are doing with the big cloud providers is accounting for them ~all. Its a more important market and easier/profitable for ~minnow amd to market to. similar in vega, only more so i suspect as they have workarounds to large gobs of scarce hbm2 on each gpu. Less hbm per gpu = more gpuS sold.
More News and Resources from Cadalyst Partners

For Mold Designers! Cadalyst has an area of our site focused on technologies and resources specific to the mold design professional. Sponsored by Siemens NX.  Visit the Equipped Mold Designer here!

For Architects! Cadalyst has an area of our site focused on technologies and resources specific to the building design professional. Sponsored by HP.  Visit the Equipped Architect here!