AMD's Lisa Su at Computex, on the record: Threadripper, Huawei, ray tracing and more

Su addresses Threadripper, the Huawei situation, motherboard BIOS issues, and why anyone should care that Intel is hiring so many journalists.

Lisa Su AMD
Adam Patrick Murray / IDG

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After AMD chief executive Lisa Su wowed a Computex audience with her announcement of a cost-effective Ryzen 9 3900X, we were still left with some questions: Where was Threadripper, for example? In a question-and-answer session following her speech, Su took the time to address this and many other topics, from ray tracing to Huawei and more.

We summarized some of Su’s post-keynote remarks earlier, but to dig down into the details—and to argue over the nuances of what was said and unsaid, you need the transcript, which we’ve published below. 

Note: Like all transcripts, there can be crosstalk, coughing, confusingly worded statements, and so on, which we’ve trimmed where needed for clarity. Journalists also tend to jump around from topic to topic. While we’ve tried to transcribe Su’s remarks verbatim, we’ve edited the questions from the journalists. We’ve also used “reporter” to indicate a question asked by any reporter. Finally, even a 30-minute transcript amounts to an enormous block of text, so use our Table of Contents links to jump from highlight to highlight.

Lisa Su AMD roundtable Adam Patrick Murray / IDG

Lisa Su meets with reporters after her Computex keynote.

Addressing rumors, and Threadripper

Reporter: While I think the 3900X is a great part, there are people on the Internet who expected to see a 16-core part. So Lisa, where’s the 16-core part?

Lisa Su: You don’t think we had enough content? You know how much stuff we took out? Look, we are extremely proud of third-gen Ryzen. When you look at every aspect of it, you know, the core, the system, all that stuff—I think you know that we always push the envelope. So I would say that we’re extremely excited with the lineup we announced today. And when there’s more we’ll tell you about more.

Reporter: There was no mention of Threadripper today. Can you give us any sort of update on that part?

Su: Yeah, you know, it’s very interesting, some of these things that circulate on the Internet. I don’t think we ever said Threadripper was not going to continue. It somehow took on a life of its own on the Internet.

You will see more Threadrippers from us. You will definitely see more. Look, we love the high-end desktop market. I think we’ll see that, both for content creators as well as workstation needs, Threadripper has done well. And so you will see more from us with Threadripper.

threadripper 2 AMD

Reporter: There’s so much passion in the community. When rumors get started, do they sort of end up out of control? Do you want to say anything to that crowd?

Su: First, what I would like to say is, I read more than any of those guys think. So look, we are very flattered that there are so many people who wonder what we’re doing, whether it’s Ryzen, or Navi, or, you know, what’s the IPC [instructions per clock], what’s the core count? What’s the frequency? What’s the price? We have so much advice that people have been given us. And all I can say is the community’s very, very important to us, very important to each one of us, and what we believe is that we’re giving the community an exceptional set of products. And that’s how we feel about it.

Do benchmarks still matter?

Reporter: Last night, Intel made a big pitch, part of which is that reviewers are using artificial benchmarks, benchmarks that don’t reflect the real world. And they’re starting to try to influence the community to try and move away from that. How do you feel about that?

Su: We also believe that real-world applications are what’s important, no doubt about it. But at some point, you’ve got to compare X to Y. So we will use benchmarks, we do. You might have noticed that we switched from Cinebench R15 to R20. We did that on purpose, because we thought it was a harder test, frankly, than R15. Maybe David or Robert can comment more about it. When we look at gaming performance, we do our very best to benchmark. All of our stuff is apples to apples, and we’ll continue to do that.

Benchmarks are important, they give you a view of competitiveness. But at the end of the day, it’s the user at home. And what we believe is we’ve given the user a lot of choice, depending on where your price points are, what your performance requirements are, whether you want to build up, you know, you want to use a water cooler or an air cooler. I think we’ve given you a lot of choice in the processor capabilities.

cinebench20 xeon IDG

Cinebench R20 in action. The test renders a scene, using either a single CPU core or all of them, working in conjunction.

David McAfee, senior director of product management: I’ll add just a little bit to that on what you saw. The Ryzen processors today, Cinebench R20 is based on the same engine that’s used in Maxon Cinema 4D, which is a real-world application that tasks processor performance. And then our second demonstration was built around Blender, which again, is a real-world application that people use every day. We’ve tried very, very hard to make sure that as we talked about the performance of our products, it’s based on real experiences that people are going to get and not synthetic workloads that are representative of what’s missing.

Robert Hallock, AMD’s senior technical marketing manager for CPUs: Yeah, this topic is near and dear to my heart. My day job is picking the benchmarks that are used to promote Ryzen. The last thing that I would ever want to do in my capacity at AMD is put forth a set of benchmarks that misleads the public in any way, that makes them feel like we’re out of line with what they want. And so we’re constantly looking at the use of benchmarks in the reviewer community, that users use, that a lot of hardware companies use—we try to find that right balance. So we’re authentic and honest with what the product is. If you do anything else it’s just an injustice to both the community and the product itself.

Epyc issues, and 5nm 

Reporter: I have a question about your Epyc data center server processor. Do you have a market share target that you could elaborate upon?

Su: Look, we are always looking to increase our market share. That’s why we put out great products. As it relates to our market share targets—for server, what we’ve said is, we believe that we can achieve double-digit market share, four to six quarters from sort of the end of 2018. So that was sort of the timing of that.

If you talk about graphics, you know, I’ll let these guys talk about graphics. The truth is AMD graphics has been very strong in the past, and it’s very strong today. And with the RDNA architecture, we think it will be even stronger going forward. So we’re very excited about opportunities to gain share in graphics.

And then in the PC market. You know, when you look historically at AMD in the PC market, we have been about high teens, low double-digits market share depending on time. We’ve gained market share the last six quarters—is that right?— so six quarters, we’ve gained PC market share on the strength of Ryzen. We think third-gen Ryzen is going to be very helpful to continue that. 

Reporter: TSMC is a very important ecosystem partner right now. Can you share with us how much is going to TSMC, and when you plan to move to 5 nanometer?

Su: So we’ve done many, many, 7nm products, I don’t think we have said exactly how many. But think about it as server, PC, graphics, and as well as our custom products. So it’s a broad product portfolio. And, you know, we’re going to be aggressive with leading-edge technology. So I’m not saying which five nanometer and when, but you will see us aggressively taking the initiative.

More details on ray tracing?

Reporter: With ray tracing apparently being a big part of future consoles, is it going to be part of [the new graphic architecture], RDNA?

Su: So we have a lot more RDNA content that David and Scott will be presenting. I think some of you may be coming to our tech day, in a few weeks at E3. We’re going to talk about all of that. 

Scott  Herkelman, AMD Radeon general manager: We’ll give out a lot more detail on that, all the new features and technologies. 

Su: We only had an hour today.

Reporter: It seems like if ray tracing was a thing you were definitely working on, we’d have heard it on stage today?

Su: We’re definitely working on ray tracing. That’s true. But like I said, we’ll give you more of the roadmap at E3.

Reporter:  Given that Sony has already announced ray tracing as part of the PlayStation 5, can you tell us if that’s a Sony optimization, or part of RDNA?

Su: So we certainly have done very specific optimizations for Sony. They are a deep customer for us on semi-custom products. There are optimizations there. However, we view ray tracing as a very important element across the portfolio. So we’ll have ray tracing a number of other places... Look at that, you got me to say more about ray tracing! 

David Wang, senior vice president of engineering at AMD: We started our RDNA development before the Sony engagement. RDNA is a revolutionary architecture; it’s also very flexible. So it can be optimized [inaudible].

Reporter: So it’s like an FPGA.

Su: I wouldn’t exactly say that.

Reporter: Followup question: Sony, Microsoft, and Google’s Stadia have announced cloud gaming initiatives. Since AMD powers all the “on-premise” game consoles, how do you see cloud gaming stacking up against local consoles?

Su: Well, look, I think we believe gaming will be all form factors. So whether it’s PCs, or consoles, or cloud, all of them require great graphics capability. As well as a number of other things. We’re very proud to be partnering with Google on their Stadia cloud streaming platform; there are a number of other cloud efforts that we are very involved in. And, you know, from my standpoint, I think they’re all going to coexist. So it’s not like one is going to take over. Their business models, all that stuff. But I think cloud gaming is going to be important. And you know, we’re going to continue to invest in that from a technology standpoint.

stadia tablet Google

Google Stadia, running on a tablet.

Reporter: Is that an Epyc play?

Su: It’s Epyc and Radeon. 

Reporter: I do feel like a lot of what we saw in the PlayStation 5 hinted at a lot of things you guys were working on. A big thing for them was no loading of levels. Was there anything in particular that could allow you to bring that to the PC market? PCI Express 4?

Su: PCIe 4 definitely helps. Things that Sony are doing, they’ve been very specific on their proprietary technologies.

Why hasn’t AMD jumped into AI? That and more on the next page.

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