AMD is aiming at the enterprise desktop market with an upcoming Ryzen Pro processor family based on its Zen core design, taking on Intel’s Core chips by offering more cores and greater security through encrypted memory support.
With Ryzen Pro, AMD is aiming at the corporate market, in contrast to its consumer-focused Ryzen chips launched earlier this year. The firm claimed that this is an important market for it, with over 350 major corporate customers, and said that it expects to double the number of enterprise-class products using its chips by the end of the year.
“We have a lot of momentum in the commercial space of the market, and now with the technology of Ryzen Pro, we believe we can take that to the next level,” said John Hampton, director of commercial business development for AMD.
Many people will be surprised to learn that desktop PCs are still around. The reality is that while laptops may have largely displaced desktop systems, they still have value for businesses in office environments and especially for smaller businesses.
Ryzen Pro is clearly being positioned against Intel’s Core processors, with AMD dividing up its portfolio into the Ryzen 7 Pro, Ryzen 5 Pro and Ryzen 3 Pro segments against the Core i7, Core i5 and Core i3, with clock speeds of up to 3.7GHz with frequency boost.
As with the EPYC server processor that AMD recently launched, the firm is trying to compete by offering more cores in each segment. Thus Ryzen 7 Pro has 8 cores against the 4 of the Core i7, the Ryzen 5 Pro has up to 6 cores against the 4 of the Core i5, and Ryzen 3 Pro has 4 cores against the 2 of Core i3.
“Ryzen Pro for us will be a no-compromise solution versus Intel vPro,” said Hampton, claiming that AMD’s new platform has “more cores and more threads at every price point”.
AMD claimed that benchmark figures show that a Ryzen 7 Pro delivers up to 62 percent more multi-threaded performance than Core i7.
“We’re designing for the future. We believe that more and more commercial workloads will demand more core, more threads, more power, and so on,” Hampton added.
The target markets for each segment are power users running content creation and scientific applications for Ryzen 7 Pro, while Ryzen 5 Pro is the mainstream platform for advanced productivity, and Ryzen 3 Pro is for office productivity and entry-level tasks.
While the firm claims ‘workstation class’ performance for Ryzen Pro, the chips are aimed at business desktops and so not intended to compete with Intel’s Xeon chips in the actual workstation market. The upcoming Ryzen “Threadripper” may address this market. It will be comprised of two silicon dies rather than the single one of the Ryzen Pro, making for a processor with twice the number of memory channels and up to 16 CPU cores.
And despite AMD touting Ryzen Pro for content creation and scientific applications, it is a purely CPU-based chip, not an APU that integrates GPU cores like many of AMD’s existing processor lines. It is expected that the Ryzen Mobile chips for laptops will be APUs and combine Zen cores with AMD’s Vega GPU core. Meanwhile, Ryzen Pro systems will have to rely on discrete GPUs, either on the motherboard or in a PCIe slot.
But AMD is not merely counting on performance to differentiate from Intel’s chips. Like the EPYC line, Ryzen Pro features a built-in AMD Secure Processor that provides a hardware-based root of trust against malware threats, plus the transparent memory encryption technology that can be used to secure areas of memory used to store sensitive data, or the entire memory of the system.
As with EPYC, there is a small performance overhead when memory encryption is enabled, but this is in the order of a one or two per cent reduction in performance, AMD claims.
The AMD Secure Processor provides a secure boot feature by validating the system firmware to ensure it has not been tampered with before it will allow the processor cores to come out of their reset state and begin the normal boot process.
This is designed to prevent malware attacks that come in under the level of the operating system and attack the firmware, making them hard to detect and remediate.
Ryzen Pro also features AMD’s SenseMI technologies, a set of adaptive features to a tweak the processor for optimum performance, as seen in the consumer Ryzen chips. These include Precision Boost to adjust the clock speed in 25MHz increments, and Pure Power, which is the flip side of this and optimises the power consumption for the workload.
With Ryzen Pro aimed at business buyers, other important features are reliability, stability, and manageability.
On the reliability front, AMD claims that the Pro products are sourced from silicon wafers with the highest yields to ensure fewer defective parts. Meanwhile, AMD offers 18 months stability for drivers and other low-level software, plus 24 month availability of processor SKUs for vendors.
On the manageability side, AMD supports the DASH standard developed by the DMTF (Distributed Management Task Force). The advantage of DASH is that it is cross-platform, and will work with both Intel and AMD platforms.
Availability of Ryzen Pro is set for the official launch on 29 August, when AMD will disclose the vendors which are offering systems based on the new chips, and information of the pricing versus Intel’s Core chips.