CES 2019: What AMD’s Announcement of 7nm Manufacturing Technology for GPU's and CPU's Means

Posted by on Saturday, January 26, 2019 - 10:48pm

CES 2019: What AMD’s Announcement of 7nm Manufacturing Technology for GPU's and CPU's Means

AMD was on the brink of bankruptcy only a few years ago, and now they are one of the biggest companies around, listing on the NASDAQ-100 with yearly revenue of over $5.33 billion and competing for a share of the market with processor producing giants like Intel and NVIDIA. CEO Dr. Lisa Su has rightfully been given a significant amount of credit for the resurgence of AMD in recent years, and due to her work, it is now recognized by Forbes as one of the top 50 world leaders.

At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES 2019) where tech producers and enthusiasts gather to discuss and display the latest trends in computers and technology, Dr. Lisa Su gave AMD’s keynote speech where the company announced the first 7nm desktop CPUs and GPUs. 7 nanometer or 7nm refers to transistor density, which in plain English, refers to the amount of transistors tech companies can fit on a microchip.

AMD first discussed 7nm at CES 2018. However, having announced the release of the products has set the company ahead of competitors Intel and NVIDIA.

Moore's Law and 7nm

What is especially fascinating about AMD’s keynote speech announcing this achievement was the discussion around the slowing down of the universally accepted Moore’s law in producing the next generation computer technology — an observation made by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore back in 1965 — in which the number of transistors on a chip doubles every year while costs halved.

AMD Chief Dr. Su discussed the use of 7nm processing technology in the new Radeon VII GPU and their Ryzen CPU, and how this makes AMD the first to market 7nm process technology for high-performance computing. It’s a significant advancement as processor technology companies have been governed by Moore’s law for the past 50 years, which arguably, has been slowing down since about 2005. As computer engineer Dr. Chien-Ping Lu recently put it, this was when “the transistors, while continuing to double in numbers, were neither faster nor more energy-efficient at the same rates as before.”

For the past 50 years, companies like AMD and Intel have continuously worked at devising new optimizations to turn the ability to fit more transistors onto the chip into higher performance. However, if Moore’s law is indeed slowing down, it begs the question: how much further can we go? How much more advanced can our computers get?

Smarter Design and Architecture

Chip producers seem to accept this decline, and it was discussed in Dr. Su’s speech. These days, companies like AMD focus more on architecture and design with their hardware rather than the obsessive shrinking dictated by Moore’s law. The critical thing about the achievement of 7nm technology for desktop computers, however, was the implication by Dr. Su implied that this was more due to smarter design and better architecture of the chips rather than the sheer ability to fit more transistors onto a chip.

Moore’s law has been fundamental in the advancement of computer performance, which aside from heavy-duty gaming is also of significance to industrial automation, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. That means that as Moore’s law has advanced, computers have become smarter, therefore, increasing the stark odds of machines doing your job at some point in the future. What this means for gaming tech isn’t all that clear yet, but the fact that Moore’s law has shown to slow down may, in turn, temper the advancement of AI and machine learning, which at the least may mean we can all hang onto our jobs for a little longer. It’s entirely speculation, however, as there are some who argue that as the advancement of AI will do the opposite and revive Moore’s law. The argument roughly goes that as AI advances, it will need stronger processing power than is currently available, which will force companies to find innovative solutions to the problem.

As it stands, AMD currently leads the game with 7nm, and it remains unknown when Intel, IBM, NVIDIA and others will catch up, and what they will have to offer when they do. Even with the slowing down of Moore’s law, the world of computer processing still moves ridiculously fast, so there’s little doubt that someone will blow this out of the water at next year’s CES.

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