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AMD Exec Resigns, Company Moves 7nm Chip Production To TSMC (Update)

AMD is losing executives at a surprising rate. Jim Anderson, GM and Senior Vice President of AMD's global Computing and Graphics sales, has resigned to pursue a CEO position at Lattice Semiconductor. AMD also announced that it is shifting all of its 7nm products to TSMC foundries, while long-time partner GlobalFoundries has announced that it is terminating work on the 7nm process.

Anderson accepted the President and CEO positions at Lattice Semiconductor, which is a step forward from his current SVP position. Anderson joins Lattice Semiconductor on September 4. Anderson also secured a position on Lattice's Board of Directors.

Anderson's departure comes after several other notable AMD employees have defected to Intel. That includes graphics chip architect Raja Koduri and Senior Director of Product Marketing Chris Hook.

AMD has appointed Saeid Moshkelani in Anderson's place. Moshkelani joined AMD in 2012 and currently serves as the EVP and GM of the Client Compute Group. AMD also announced that Darren Grasby, SVP of global Computing and Graphics sales and the president of AMD's EMEA operations, will now report directly to AMD CEO Dr. Lisa Su. 

GlobalFoundries also announced separately that it is halting development of its 7nm, 5nm, and 3nm FinFET processes indefinitely. The company cites increased focus on wringing more longevity out of its 14nm/12nm FInFET nodes as its new path forward. That includes new RF, embedded memory, and low-power chips. The company is redirecting its R&D efforts accordingly.

The waning Moore's Law finds trailing nodes enjoying long-term success as newer processes become exponentially more expensive to develop.

As outlined in Intel's chart above, the industry has already winnowed down to four foundries on the latest node, but now Samsung, which is rumored to be having issues with its 7nm process, TSMC and Intel remain as the final three on a leading edge node. GlobalFoundries' strategy shift is surprising, and it also spun off its ASIC division. This division requires smaller nodes to remain competitive, so the spin-off will access "alternative foundry options" at 7nm and beyond, likely meaning products from other foundries.

AMD's Gary Patton recently told EETimes:

GF [GlobalFoundries] made the size of its 7-nm pitches and SRAM cells similar to those of TSMC to let designers like AMD use both foundries. AMD “will have more demand than we have capacity, so I have no issues with that,” he said of AMD using the Taiwan foundry.

These statements have led some analysts to wonder if TSMC could become capacity-constrained on the 7nm node, especially in light of its other large customers, like Apple and Nvidia. GlobalFoundries' cancellation of the 7nm node would leave AMD no recourse to source wafers from a separate company as a relief valve, particularly to fuel its projected rise in the data center, but only time will tell if TSMC can meet demand. 

AMD has a five-year Wafer Supply Agreement with GlobalFoundries that guarantees that AMD will purchase a predetermined number of wafers from the company or face levies. The agreement didn’t guarantee that AMD would utilize 7nm for its upcoming CPUs. However, the announcement stated that the agreement "establishes a framework for technology collaboration between AMD and GF at the 7nm technology node." IBM also uses GlobalFoundries as its sole silicon producer for Power processors and also has a WSA with the company. We expect the companies will renegotiate the WSA to better reflect the new relationship.

AMD announced earlier this year that its 7nm Navi GPUs would come with TSMC silicon, and Lisa Su recently confirmed that the second-gen EPYC processors would also come with TSMC's 7nm process. AMD's Mark Papermaster penned a statement on the move, assuring customers that the company's roadmap remains intact:

AMD’s next major milestone is the introduction of our upcoming 7nm product portfolio, including the initial products with our second generation “Zen 2” CPU core and our new “Navi” GPU architecture. We have already taped out multiple 7nm products at TSMC, including our first 7nm GPU planned to launch later this year and our first 7nm server CPU that we plan to launch in 2019. Our work with TSMC on their 7nm node has gone very well and we have seen excellent results from early silicon. To streamline our development and align our investments closely with each of our foundry partner’s investments, today we are announcing we intend to focus the breadth of our 7nm product portfolio on TSMC’s industry-leading 7nm process. We also continue to have a broad partnership with GLOBALFOUNDRIES spanning multiple process nodes and technologies. We will leverage the additional investments GLOBALFOUNDRIES is making in their robust 14nm and 12nm technologies at their New York fab to support the ongoing ramp of our AMD Ryzen, AMD Radeon and AMD EPYC processors. We do not expect any changes to our product roadmaps as a result of these changes.

Paul Alcorn

Paul Alcorn is the Deputy Managing Editor for Tom's Hardware US. He writes news and reviews on CPUs, storage and enterprise hardware.