Hardware

AMD’s 7nm CPUs & GPUs To Be Fabbed by TSMC, on Track for 2018 – 2019

With the announcement that its long-time manufacturing partner
(and outright former fab)
GlobalFoundries is dropping out of the race for bleeding-edge
manufacturing nodes, the second big question of the day has
been what this means for AMD. For all intents and purposes, AMD
and GlobalFoundries have been tied at the hip since GloFo was
spun off from AMD back in 2009, and consequently GloFo has
always been AMD’s fab of choice for CPUs, and more recently
GPUs. So with GlobalFoundries’ changes to their process
development plans, AMD is outlining their new partnerships and
manufacturing plans.

In short, AMD is now shifting over the bulk of their
bleeding-edge development to TSMC. The company is careful to
note that they “intend to focus the breadth” of their 7nm
production at TSMC rather than all 7nm production –
leaving open the possibility of using TSMC rival Samsung in the
future – but the message is clear that we should expect AMD’s
major 7nm products to be fabbed out of TSMC now that
GlobalFoundries is no longer an option.

TSMC being AMD’s new bleeding-edge partner should of course
come as no surprise, as TSMC has been the fab AMD has fallen
back on for other projects in the past. TSMC was until the most
recent generation the fab AMD used for their GPUs, and it’s
where their semi-custom APUs for Microsoft and Sony have been
made. Meanwhile AMD and TSMC have already previously announced
that some of AMD’s forthcoming 7nm products, including their

7nm Vega and
“Rome” EPYC CPU would be fabbed by the Taiwanese foundry.
So today’s announcement is largely confirmation that AMD is
going to continue down this path, with most (if not all) of
their other planned 7nm products ending up at TSMC as well.


7nm Vega

As it stands then, AMD’s plans remain largely unchanged. AMD’s
7nm Vega GPU has been successfully taped out, and it is
currently sampling among AMD’s customers with a commercial
launch towards the end of this year. Then in 2019, AMD intends
to release its CPUs featuring its Zen 2 microarchitecture.
These processors will also be fabbed by TSMC and the chip
designer has already received the first working silicon.

Farther out, AMD’s announcement also confirms that their
upcoming Navi architecture GPUs, which are also planned for
7nm, will be fabbed at TSMC. Though AMD has not disclosed any
timeframes regarding these GPUs and whether any of them have
been taped out.

Overall, AMD seems reasonably happy with the current state of
affairs, stating that “Our work with TSMC on their 7nm node has
gone very well and we have seen excellent results from early
silicon.” As a close GlobalFoundries customer, I have to
imagine that AMD was the first such customer informed of these
plans, so they’ve had the most time to adjust their internal
plans. None the less, the company sees it as win for their
“flexible foundry” strategy, and as a result, they do not
expect any changes to their product roadmaps despite the
foundry changes.

That said, while AMD seems to be handling this well, this isn’t
a feint on their part, and that they’ve had to make changes
behind the scenes. The company has confirmed to us that they
had started development of a chip to be made using
GlobalFoundries’ 7LP process technology, but this one had not
been taped out yet (it was on track for a Q4 tape out,
according to GF). So we will be seeing products that weren’t
originally intended for TSMC.

As for AMD’s GlobalFoundries relationship, the company will be
continuing to work with GlobalFoundries for some time to come.
GloFo is still AMD’s fab for their current Vega, Polaris, and
Zen/Zen+ chips, and AMD will continue making chips there.
Furthermore should AMD decide to start on any new chips that
don’t require a bleeding-edge manufacturing process (e.g. a
chipset), then GlobalFoundries is still an option.


To be renegotiated: AMD’s most recent GF Wafer Share
Agreement

The biggest remaining question then will be what this means for
AMD and GlobalFoundries longstanding
Wafer Share Agreement (WSA), which has kept the two
companies bound together tightly and required that AMD do most
of its manufacturing at their former fab. Today’s announcement
from GlobalFoundries and AMD has confirmed that the two
companies will be renegotiating the WSA – presumably a
requirement should GloFo no longer intend to offer
bleeding-edge nodes – though to what extent remains to be seen.
AMD by their own admittance is betting very heavily on 7nm
products, so it’s not clear whether the company is going to
need all that many wafers from GlobalFoundries in a couple
years’ time. In the meantime, AMD does not believe it is going
to need any WSA with TSMC.

Related Reading:

Freeman Addico

Techmaker and Entrepreneur with an extensive experience in Cloud Computing and e-commerce. I build Solutions for Equity and revenue sharing basis. Think of me as an Investor who invests Technology instead of money. Want to explore a collaboration? Drop me a message or schedule a call

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