Ryzen Pro: AMD takes on Intel on the corporate desktop, with one key omission

AMD today launched Ryzen Pro (styled “PRO” in AMD’s branding, but we’re not going to do that here), a series of processors designed for the corporate desktop. Close counterparts to the existing line of consumer-oriented Ryzen chips, the Pro parts are aimed at Intel’s vPro-compatible processors, which enable a number of additional administrative, security, and management capabilities.

Most of the regular Ryzen models have corresponding Pro versions, albeit topping out at a 1700X rather than the 1800 and 1800X of the consumer parts. This means that at the high end, there’s a couple of eight core, 16 thread parts, which is twice the number of cores and threads of comparable Intel chips.

In general, each Ryzen numbered series approximately corresponds to Intel’s numbering—Ryzen 7 against Core i7, and so on—but AMD is claiming some advantages over Intel. In particular, Intel doesn’t make any vPro-enabled i3-series processors. Even if your computational needs are modest, and an i3 is otherwise sufficient, you’ll have to step up to at least an i5 if you want vPro capabilities. Not so with Ryzen Pro; at the low end, AMD has a pair of Ryzen 3 Pro chips with just four cores and four threads each, operating at the same kind of price point as the two core, four thread i3, but with the same management and security capabilities as other Pro parts. Ryzen 3 Pros also have some amount of turbo boosting, which i3s don’t.

When pushed on what exactly those Pro features are, however, AMD is unclear. In the slides it prepared for the media, AMD listed features such as memory encryption, Secure Boot, and a firmware-integrated TPM as Ryzen Pro features. This is peculiar, though, because the regular Ryzen chips support Secure Boot and a firmware TPM. They also purport to support memory encryption, and at least some motherboard firmwares for Ryzen chips have settings for turning on this memory encryption. As such, these features don’t appear to be unique to Ryzen Pro.

The bigger difference seems to be in non-silicon features. The Pro CPUs have 3 year warranties, instead of the 12 months of the consumer parts; AMD also promises to manufacture the Pro parts for at least 24 months. This makes it much easier for enterprises to standardize on particular system configurations, safe in the knowledge that they’ll continue to be able to buy identical systems even over multi-year deployments.

AMD’s relative lack of product segmentation—extending the full range of features all the way down the line to the lowliest Ryzen 3 Pro—is certainly a welcome contrast to Intel’s segmented line-up and forced upsells. But there’s a big hurdle for the company to overcome in the corporate desktop space, especially when it comes to low-end parts: none of these chips have integrated GPUs. While the high-end Ryzen 7 Pro parts are likely to be used for high-end workloads with discrete GPUs, the mid-range Ryzen 5 Pros and low-end Ryzen 3 Pros are much less likely to justify that additional expense. Intel’s competing chips, in contrast, all come with an integrated GPU, enabling a range of small form factors, reduced power consumption, and lower bills of materials.

Ryzen chips with integrated GPUs will materialize eventually, but until they do, we feel that Ryzen Pro has something of an uphill battle ahead of it. Ryzen Pro systems should ship in the second half of this year; Ryzen Pro mobile parts will be released in the first half of 2018, with a full reveal due in late August.

Original link: https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2017/06/ryzen-pro-amd-takes-on-intel-on-the-corporate-desktop-with-one-key-omission/