At the Global Foundries Technology Conference, AMD’s CTO Mark Papermaster announced that the company will be transitioning “graphics and client products” from the Global Foundries 14nm LPP FinFET process it uses today to the new 12nm LP process in 2018. Global Foundries also announced that 12LP will begin production in 1Q18.
We followed up with Papermaster in person and confirmed directly that the company will transition both Vega GPUs and the Ryzen line of processors to the 12nm LP process. However, it’s still not clear whether or not he meant that 12nm LP will be a shrink of Ryzen in 2018 (a "tick" equivalent if you will) or if Zen+/Zen 2 will also be using the 12LP process. Previously, AMD has implied that Zen 2 will use the 7nm process. The company has used both "Zen+" and "Zen 2" to refer to its next-generation die.
We expected AMD's next-generation 7nm Zen products to slug it out with Intel's 10nm Ice Lake processors next year, but it appears we will see 12nm LP against Intel's 10nm instead.
Earlier, we learned from Raja Koduri's letter to his team that we should expect "new wave of product excitement" in early 2018, which implies that is when we might see the first news of Vega with the 12nm LP process to emerge.
Nvidia’s Volta architecture is already shipping on TSMC’s 12nm FFN process this year, so on the GPU side Nvidia seems to be ahead on adopting new process technology right now. Of course, on the CPU side we also have Intel, which promised “real” 10nm chips for next year that should also be significantly ahead in performance and power efficiency compared to the 12LP process.
However, this is nothing really new, as Intel has been ahead in process technology for quite some time, and if anything, third-party foundry companies such as Samsung/Global Foundries and TSMC have closed the gap a little once they adopted the FinFET structure for their transistors. AMD's relatively quick transition to the 12nm LP processor is vital for the company as it seeks to compete with Intel's Coffee Lake processors and Nvidia's Volta GPUs.
The transition to 12nm LP also reaffirms AMD's commitment to its partnership with Global Foundries. The companies signed a five-year wafer supply agreement recently, but there has been speculation that AMD might seek other partners for its forthcoming product generations.
We're digging in deeper for more information and will follow up as required.