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AMD's Third-generation Epyc Processors Promise to Bring The Thunder

Published: 2-2-2021

To say that AMD have been on a roll lately is a massive understatement. Their latest generation of desktop CPUs have given Intel a solid thrashing. Beating the chip giant not only in price to performance, but in outright per-core performance as well.

AMD’s biggest challenge lately hasn’t really been Intel, but how to make enough chips to satisfy demand. It’s been going so well that AMD actually passed Intel for market share in desktop CPUs, if only briefly,

But what about the server side of things? AMD have actually always done well here. When it comes to server chips it’s not always pure performance that sways the decision on a server system. Instead, power consumption, upgradability and cost may be much more important.

In this regard AMD has offered a great server chip deal for years now. Their CPUs usually use the same socket for several generations, making drop-in upgrades cheap. They have been very power efficient and pack more cores into a single CPU compared to Intel at each price point. Making the need for quad- and dual- motherboards unnecessary in some cases or cutting down on the total number of server systems needed.

Now we’ve seen the first reveal of the new generation of Epyc Milan server CPUs from AMD and, quite frankly, Intel should be more worried than ever.

Crazy Numbers

There were more than a few leaks at the end of 2020, but during their CES keynote the company decided to give us official information on these upcoming chips. The Milan generation is set to replace the Rome CPUs that are currently in servers around the world. It’s expected that the Milan chips will be pin-compatible with motherboards designed for Rome. Though they’ll probably need BIOS updates first.

The top-spec Milan CPUs are set to be 64-core monsters offering 128 PCIe lanes. AMD CEO Dr. Lisa Su didn’t show off these 64-core on stage, presumably because they weren’t ready with samples. Instead we got to see a 32-core Milan CPU go up against a 28-core Xeon Gold showing a heavy weather simulation. According to AMDs own numbers the 32-core Milan CPU outperforms the Intel chip in this case by 46% in a dual-socket configuration and a whopping 68% in single-socket.

More Details are Coming

The CES demo didn’t do much in the way of confirming the information we’ve seen in leaks during December of 2020. We don’t know the exact clock speeds, what sort of precise IPC uplift we’re getting over and above Epyc Rome or how much power Milan will draw in real life situations.

The unconfirmed details include that the 64-core Milan CPU will have a 280W TDP and can boost all the way up to 3.5Ghz. The 32-core model reportedly will boost to a whopping 4Ghz according to one leaker. Whether these turn out to be accurate or not, there’s little doubt that the performance claims are strong.

What About Zen 3 ThreadRipper?

There are also rumours about Zen 3 Threadripper CPUs, specifically a 16-core model. Although we don't think that’s too likely since there’s already a 16-core Ryzen CPU in the form of the 5950X. Threadrippers are differentiated from Ryzen CPUs in terms of their cache sizes, addressable RAM and other features that professional users care about. However, Ryzen Zen 3 CPUs have improved so much that there may be no need for Threadripper to return. Or, at least, they’ll have to be something very special to entice anyone.

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