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A Walk Down Memory Lane: Baeca, Bulldozer and Zen

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Posted February 2, 2017 by Josh Jackson in CPU & Motherboards

Remember when off the wall rumors at the end of 2013 told us that AMD had a monster chip coming? Pepperidge Farms remembers! At the time, the rumor was so far fetched that nobody gave it a second thought. If you’re still a bit hazy on the details, check out the following link so you can get a refresher on it.

The rumor seemed absolutely ridiculous, yet today we’re staring into the face of a CPU that has 8 cores, 16 threads and runs off of a meager 95W of power. Here’s why I think this rumor is interesting. Jim Keller rejoined AMD in 2012 to begin helping them redesign their architecture from the ground up and it was only a year later that this rumor surfaced. It’s extremely possible that Baeca was an early engineering attempt that, while being a failure in and of itself, was a crucial step towards bringing Ryzen to the market. Let’s take a journey and see what’s bringing us to one of the most anticipated releases in quite a while.

For starters, let’s hop back on the Baeca train for a little bit. The term is pretty obscure, but a quick google search led me to an interesting אסטרולוגיה. It’s the idea of someone who’s mind is going a mile a minute, always sees the lighter side of a situation and believes something new is always on the ho-“Ryzen.” Could be a coincidence, but the code name for Ryzen has been Zen for quite some time. What if Zen was the alphabetical, 26th revision to get Ryzen where it is today? Eventually, the 6 GHz frequency and 25 MB L3 cache would tone down to something more reasonable for other engineering gains, while energy efficiency continues to make strides for the final release. Maybe, just maybe, the rumor had far more weight than we ever realized.

At the time though, the pain of watching AMD missing what our expectations were wasn’t going to subside right away. Many of us hoped for an FX version of the Steamroller core, only to see them release it to the APU market alone. Looking back, it makes perfect sense why AMD didn’t waste effort on an architectural process doomed to be another disappointment. On the other hand, there was really good indication this was the case at the time by trying to look forward. I went back to an old article where I mused on the reasons AMD wasn’t going to release a Steamroller variant of the FX lineup.

Granted, I’m an eternal optimist and while I hate to toot my own horn, I love how this prediction fits perfectly into what’s happening this year with the Ryzen release. It turns out that most, if not all of the design behind the Bulldozer family had to be completely scrapped in order to bring a truly competitive CPU to the market. I know, we don’t have official benchmarks yet, but don’t forget the fact that I’m an eternal optimist. Looking back, it’s easy to see that Steamroller had to be abandoned, but at the time it seemed that death was right around the corner for poor AMD. Thankfully, their future is looking brighter than ever, but we all know that they aren’t completely out of the woods yet.

It wasn’t much longer before rumors of Zen began to surface. Seeing AMD claim a 40% increase in IPC performance was a huge step towards bringing hope that Zen was going to be good, but we’d felt burned too many times to really get our hopes up. We all held our breath and anxiously awaited, then CES 2017 rolled around and that’s when I became a true believer. AMD hasn’t given any official numbers that I’m aware of yet, but being able to sit down with the people behind this chip, see the energy flowing from them, and hearing about truly innovative features helped me leave that showroom with far more confidence than I had before. It didn’t hurt to play a gorgeously smooth demo of Doom either. The team at AMD has so much faith in Ryzen because they’ve poured their hearts and souls into this release and getting to see that passion is why I let my guard down to anticipate what’s coming. I know many people try not to get their hopes up in an attempt to stem off crushing disappointment, but it’s too late for me!

News just came out that we have a late February or early March release frame for Ryzen. This means we are right at a month away from finding out how big 2017 will become in the tech market. Hopefully, a little journey down memory lane brings a smile to your face, but it will really be nice if we get to look back on this journey and see it pay off shortly. Keep posted at PureOC because we plan on watching this release like a hawk and we hope to continue to bring you good news as we reach a new horizon.

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