March Meet the Experts Interview – Stephanie Smith

​The last several months have been busy for AMD, with the announcement and release of AMD Ryzen processors. AMD's Stephanie Smith found time to talk about Ryzen and her team's incredible experience in development and leading up to launch.

Tell us about yourself: what is your background, what is your position at AMD, how long have you been here?

I am Director of Client Platform Program Management and have been with AMD for 14 years. 

I previously worked directly with customers (Dell, IBM) on their AMD Opteron™ product development and on several generation of AMD CPUs and APUs. 

What was your involvement in the development of Ryzen?

I am the Client System Lead responsible for driving the Ryzen AM4 platform solution and enablement to our customers.  I lead a team that develops the solution, validates the silicon in the platform and enables our customers and partners. 

Can you tell us about the vision of Ryzen?

Ryzen has been a rallying cry for our engineering teams for the future of our CPU business.  With the vision and development of the "Zen" core and new architecture, the teams have been extremely excited to bring this product to market as they understood the projected gains in performance and capability. 

From your perspective, what were the key factors that contributed to the success of Ryzen?

From the beginning, we have made our focus on customers a priority. 

I have never seen this level of excitement, dedication and commitment to a program than I have experienced on Ryzen and that's saying a lot given the engineering culture we have here at AMD.

You mentioned customer focus as a key contributor to Ryzen's success. How so?

From the beginning of the program, we planned through every aspect of customer engagement throughout our development considering all their requirements.  As the CSL, I take a platform solution-centric view and drive the entire system solution, not just the silicon.  This includes considering how our CPU and infrastructure requirements drive their hardware design requirements, associated costs and flexibility with component suppliers in the market.  When validating our silicon and solution, we have extensive testing on functional areas that are tightly linked to the hardware implementation.  We have an expanded test suite covering multiple aspects of the end customers' user experience with the entire solution including the software (BIOS, firmware, drivers). 

We engaged early and continuously with our technology partners, working very closely with them to ensure they were on a parallel path to be with us at launch. 

How did customer focus influence the development of Ryzen? Were there any events, company initiatives…?

Global Resources:

With our initial silicon in-house, we had over 100 technical engineering leads co-locate within our lab to accelerate our bring-up.  The excitement within the lab was incredible with engineers refusing to leave the lab until we had to push them to go get rest.  They'd be back in the lab after only hours of sleep.  After bring-up, we expanded to all our labs globally.   The leadership support was great – even Lisa Su would come through the lab talking with the engineers and providing continued support.

Taipei Resources:   

We moved engineers overseas for weeks at a time to help with the development process and customer collaboration.

Overclocking Workshop:

Overclocking in modern PCs requires collaboration between the motherboard (MB), system designers and the CPU supplier. The CPU supplies only the base functions to allow overclocking.  To capture additional performance, it requires the MB and system designers to define and implement how to run the CPU so that the unique capabilities and headroom in the system can be captured.  

Early in the CPU testing and system development phases, we got together with the MB designers to show the base capabilities of the CPU and tools to tweak performance and then again, a little later, to test and enhance the true overclocking capabilities that they had implemented in their system boards.  And then get out the liquid nitrogen and start to see just how fast Ryzen could really be made to run!!

We set up sessions to collaborate with ODM partners on BIOS integration.This was about putting it all together!! Once full functionality and validation testing had been completed, final functional enhancements and optimizations needed to be "merged" with the ODM/IBV customizations and overclocking capabilities. The best method to get this done efficiently and quickly was to hold "workshops" focusing on the integration and testing of the co-developed superset of features for each ODM MB.  Out of these workshops, the production MB BIOS and other SW stack components took shape. 

The highly collaborative OC workshops and BIOS integration workshops accelerated identifying and fixing the production gating issues and readied a significant number of the platforms for demo at CES and production launch.

This led to motherboards being ready at CES 2017, and more than 82 motherboards available at launch.

What was the end result of the overclocking workshop and the customer focus?

The tech day record was CB r15 nT at 2449 (old record 2410) for an 8 core CPU. The CPU was running at 5.2GHz on all 8 cores at a temperature of -200C to achieve this record.

Our audience hasn't had an inside look into the Engineering team for Ryzen. How did the team go about managing such a big undertaking, while also enabling all the type of customers?

Developing and launching a product of this magnitude with the global engineering teams required a very detailed execution plan, a structured approach for team collaboration and executive support to remove any barriers for us to make progress.   

What about team morale? What were the key factors that drove the team to finish?

Engineers worked around the clock.  Once our initial bring-up was successful, the parts and hardware were broadly distributed to our global engineering teams.  We have distributed teams and remote tools like diagnostics and debug capability that allows us to perform around-the-clock engineering work.

Ryzen has had a big impact on the market, but what about you and your team, how has it impacted you? How has it impacted your team?

This program and my role has been one of the most challenging in my career.  I am incredibly proud of what this engineering team has accomplished.  I love wearing my Ryzen jacket – it allows me to show my pride in the amazingly talented team here at AMD and our accomplishments with the Ryzen product.    Our success energizes us to keep driving future product improvements to increase our market share!  It's a fantastic time to be at AMD!

How do you see the Ryzen architecture impacting the industry and AMD itself?

The Ryzen architecture is a foundation to build on.  We are actively working to bring both the server "Naples" product to market and later in the year, our Ryzen mobile product.  While the engineering team is very proud of our Ryzen desktop product, we know that we are just getting started.  We have great potential with our future product launches this year.  

 

Thank you to Stephanie for this inside look at the development of Ryzen. AMD looks forward to continuing to deliver future-focused technologies to market, and enabling partners to offer in​credibly powerful components to their customers.

To listen to the full interview, click here.​

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