Category Archives: Infrastructure

Bell prepares for year-end spectrum auction by selling 25 data centres to Equinix

Bell Canada Enterprises (BCE) sold 25 data centres held in 13 data centre sites for CA$1.04 billion to U.S. data centre company Equinix. The transaction ranks Bell Business Markets as the first Equinix Platinum Partner in Canada, and it also means that Bell enterprise customers will gain access to Equinix’s global integrated network and cloud…

Cisco is buying internet monitoring solution ThousandEyes

While Cisco wouldn’t say what it plans to pay, the tech giant announced Thursday it plans to buy internet monitoring solution startup ThousandEyes.

The move complements the company’s 2017 $3.7 billion acquisition of AppDynamics and is another clear sign that Cisco is pushing further into software and services. CNBC and other outlets have reported the ThousandEyes acquisition is valued at around $1 billion.

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Your business application’s health is more important than ever 

 

ThousandEyes is backed by several venture capital firms, including Sutter Hill Ventures, Sequoia Capital, and Salesforce Ventures, according to Pitchbook. Its chief executive officer and co-founder Mohit Lad said early discussions with Cisco and AppDynamics could be traced back to early last year.

“In our customer base, we kept running into AppDynamics on the application side and Cisco products on the network side and naturally started having conversations on collaborating with both sides of Cisco to formulate a strong joint vision. It was during these conversations over the last 12 months or so, that the two companies have gotten to know each other and developed a strong sense of mutual respect,” Lad wrote in a blog post. “Cisco’s excitement about what we were doing and how it complements Cisco’s strengths has been evident in every conversation across different parts of the organization.”

Cisco said that the purchase will close before the first quarter of its fiscal year 2021.

Surface Laptop 3 15-inch (AMD) review: good, but not outstanding

Nestled within Microsoft’s family of convertible tablet PCs, the Surface Laptop 3 continues to offer a grounded, traditional laptop experience. The new 15-inch display provides a more comfortable viewing experience, and still features Microsoft’s superb build quality, fantastic keyboard, and an excellent display. But as sleek as it may be, the Surface Laptop 3’s conservative feature set is eclipsed by flashy designs from other manufacturers, and its high asking price means its competition is fierce and plentiful. Moreover, its lacklustre battery life (on the AMD models) and skimpy starting storage need improving.
Pros

  • Solid build quality
  • Decent performance
  • Excellent thermal management
  • One of the best laptop keyboards money can buy
  • Factory-calibrated display
  • Magnetic charging port
Cons

  • No front-facing speakers
  • Anemic 128GB starting storage
  • Wonky auto screen brightness adjustment
  • AMD models have subpar battery life
  • performance discrepancy between Intel and AMD models

Surface Laptop 3 15-inch specifications

Device Surface Laptop 3 15-inch Review model
Processor Up to AMD Ryzen 7 3780U or Intel Core i7-1065U for business models AMD Ryzen 5 3580U
Graphics Radeon Vega 9 (AMD) or Iris Pro (Intel) AMD Radeon Vega 9
RAM Up to 32GB DDR4  8GB DDR4
Storage Up to 1TB NVMe SSD 128GB NVMe SSD
Display 15-inch, 3:2, 2,946 x 1,664p touchscreen with Surface Pen support
Battery N/A N/A
Ports
  • 1x USB-C
  • 1x USB-A ports
  • 1x Surface port
  • 1x 3.5mm audio jack
Weight 3.4lbs (1.54kg)
Price Starting at CA$1,599 CA$1,599

Introduction

The Surface Laptop returns for its third reiteration. This time around, Microsoft has added a bigger display, removed the fabric covers from the wristrest, and sourced processors from both Intel and AMD.

The Surface Laptop 3 sources processors from both Intel and AMD. The AMD processors in Microsoft’s Surface Laptop 3s are specifically optimized for these devices. With that said, having more options means more confusion for the buyer, a confusion we should address before we dig into the review.

Microsoft only uses AMD processors –the Ryzen 5 3580U and the Ryzen 7 3780U processors for its consumer Surface Laptop 3 15-inch models. The consumer 13-inch variant, as well as business 13-inch and 15-inch models, all use Intel’s 10th-gen Ice Lake mobile processors.

For its 13-inch and business customers, Microsoft exclusively uses the Intel Core i5-1035G7 or the Core i7-1065G7 processors. Intel variants cost CA$170 more than AMD models at the same RAM and storage capacities. Microsoft doesn’t offer the Intel-based Surface Laptop 3 15-inch on its consumer product page; it can be purchased through its business website.

Our review model features the AMD Ryzen 5 3580U processor, 8GB of RAM, and 128GB of storage.

Design


The only glossy component on the Surface Laptop 3’s metal body is its Microsoft logo. Weighing in at 3.4lbs, the Surface Laptop 3 won’t break your back, although you may want to opt for the 13-inch model if portability is a key concern.

From the lid to the base, the Surface Laptop 3 features sharply chiselled lines for a stoic look.

Coming with a single USB-A and a USB-C port, you’ll need to buy adapters or the Surface Dock if you have multiple devices or need to connect to Ethernet.

Only a charging connector sits on the right edge. The connector latches onto the device magnetically so it won’t yank your laptop off the table if someone trips over the cable. This is also where the Surface Dock connects to.

A large keyboard and glass trackpad populate the interior. Although the Surface Laptop 3 omits a number pad, it allows the keyboard to sit in the center, orienting the typists directly in front of the screen. Microsoft now offers Surface Laptop 3s without the Alcantara fabric materials and instead exposes the raw metal for the palm rest. It’s a shame that even with ample room on the side, Microsoft has not installed upward-facing speakers.

Display

The Surface Laptop 15 sports a 15-inch IPS 2,946 x 1,664p touchscreen. Its 3:2 aspect ratio affords more vertical space for viewing pages and documents.

With a Spyder 5 Pro colorimeter, I measured the display to cover 98 per cent of the sRGB colour gamut, enough for editing pictures for the web. Although it doesn’t support HDR, it did reach an impressive peak brightness of 398nits, bright enough to fend off glare against bright overhead lights. In addition, all Surface displays are factory-calibrated for supreme colour accuracy.

While the screen is eye-candy, the neurotic ambient light sensor got on my nerves. Under a consistent office room lighting condition, the display brightness would randomly ramp up and down. I’m sure this can be addressed through a software update, but the fix doesn’t seem to be present in the latest version of Windows 10 Home (as of May 26, 2020).

Like all Surface devices, the Microsoft Surface Laptop 15 supports the Surface Pen. Because the display doesn’t fold 360-degrees, the pen is more suited to making quick annotations as opposed to sketching.

Performance

As aforementioned, Microsoft decided to source both AMD and Intel processors for the Surface Laptop 3. The 15-inch model features either a 4-core / 8-thread Ryzen 5 3580U or Ryzen 7 3780U Surface Edition processor, earning their names from Microsoft’s partnership with AMD to optimize these chips specifically for the Surface Laptops.

Both the Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 7 processors use integrated graphics based on AMD’s Vega architecture.

AMD hasn’t had a significant presence in mobile platforms for years. Frankly, I don’t remember ever seeing an AMD processor in a flagship laptop before 2018. AMD’s return was made possible by a cohort of factors, including Intel’s processor supply constraint and the increasingly competitive performance of AMD’s Ryzen processors.

Cinebench R20

Maxon’s Cinebench benchmark measures a processor’s performance using the Cinema4D’s rendering engine. The test measures single and multi-threaded performance.

Our model with the Ryzen 5 3580U processor produced 1231 points in multi-core performance and 369 in single-core performance. It trails behind the Intel Core i7-1065G7 in the LG gram 17, but its real competitor is the Intel Core i5-1035G7. Unfortunately, we were unable to obtain a laptop using that processor for benchmarking.

UL PCMark 10

PCMark 10 tests a system overall performance, not just the processor. Its benchmark suite simulates real-world workloads in spreadsheet processings, word editing, web browsing, video playback, and content creation.


A score of 3848 once again lags behind the LG gram 17 and its Intel Core i7-1065G7 in the Essentials (8820) and Productivity (6869) suites. Interestingly, the Surface Laptop 3 was able to best the LG gram 17 in Digital content creation (3285) thanks in part to its beefy integrated Vega graphics.

Geekbench 4

Geekbench puts the processor through a mix of workload intensities and spits out a score based on the combined total. These include basic arithmetic, image compression, and web processing. It’s a quick and easy benchmark for measuring a processor’s burst performance.

The Ryzen processor was demolished by the Intel Core i7-1065G7. The Intel chip scored 5663 and 14985 in single and multi-core performance respectively.

Storage

CrystalDiskMark paints a snapshot of the disk drive’s performance at varying queue depths and thread count. The most important metric to a consumer mobile device is sequential and random access speeds at low queue depth and low thread count.

It sucks that a laptop in 2020 still starts with just 128GB of storage. Nevertheless, the Surface Laptop 3’s SSD is not slow by any means, scoring nearly 2GB/s and 31MB/s in sequential and random reads respectively.

Experience

Synthetic benchmarks are great at slotting a device on a hierarchy, experience is where it counts.

Despite what the benchmarks show, even the lowest-end Surface Laptop 3 is blazing fast in everyday productivity.  It easily handled writing, emails, and general multitasking in applications like Google Chrome, PDFs, Outlook, and various business communication tools like Zoom and Cisco Webex Teams. It also competently handled light editing of RAW image files in Adobe Lightroom. Applying spot removal, cropping, and applying distortion transformation were all very speedy.

Battery life

This is where the Ryzen mobile processor falls short. my AMD-equipped model struggled to reach a full day of productivity, often hitting power-saving mode at around the 7-hour mark. My day-to-day apps include browser-based applications like the Google suite, watching web conferences, attend remote meetings, and manipulating images.

Keyboard and trackpad

Microsoft’s excellent keyboard returns on the Surface Laptop 3. The large keycaps have a grippy, powder-like finish that prevents fingerprints from accumulating too quickly. Key actuation is soft, quiet, yet very tactile. I had no problem transitioning from my mechanical keyboard to working on the Surface Laptop 3 all day. The keys are backlit with white backlights, making key searching in the dark a thing of the past.

The glass trackpad is spacious and exceptionally smooth as well. Microsoft has seriously improved its trackpad’s accuracy and reliability over the years. The large slab of glass has a velvety-smooth finish that resembles marble.

Compared to the Surface Pro convertible tablet PCs, I much prefer the one of the Surface Laptop 3 due to its solid base. Its rigidity and weight eliminates keyboard wobble and is easier to rest on my lap.

Thermal, noise and throttling

Long story short, the Surface Laptop demonstrated excellent thermal management, surely due to a robust cooler and processor optimization efforts.

In AIDA64 Extreme’s CPU stress test with the FPU and cache options enabled, the Surface Laptop 3 barely broke 45 degrees after 15 minutes. The temperature was so low that I had initially thought a faulty temperature probe was misreporting the results. My infrared thermometer showed that the bottom of the laptop reached around 40 degrees, proving that the internal temperature readings weren’t far off.

As robust as the cooling solution is, it couldn’t totally channel heat away from the keyboard. The top left quadrant of the keyboard was uncomfortably hot when the laptop was under sustained load during a major Windows update, and was also bothersome when I edited photos in Adobe Lightroom.

Low temperatures mean more than just lower throttling. It also prevents the laptop from turning your legs into roast. In addition, heat also poses a threat to the battery’s longevity.

Despite its tepid load temperatures, the processor’s clock speed still had to throttle from the advertised 3.7GHz boost frequency. At 45C, the Ryzen 5 3580U bounced between 3GHz to 3.4GHz on all cores.

When running day-to-day workloads like web browsing, video streaming, and word processing, the fans are completely inaudible. It’s only during heavy sustained workloads such as batch exports in Lightroom that it starts to whine. Even then, it’s far from annoying.

Conclusion

There’s much to love about the Surface Laptop 3. From the solid build and premium aluminum build, to the brilliant keyboard and picture-perfect display, the Surface Laptop 3 15 has all the marks of a brilliant business device. The USB-C and USB-A ports are enough to juggle multiple devices across the ports without a hub most of the time, although an extra USB-C port on the 15-inch model won’t hurt.

Most of the Surface Laptop 3’s flaws–like the annoying screen brightness issue–can be addressed through software updates. With that said, its base storage needs to be upgraded from 128GB to 256GB. Also, its battery life may struggle to last a single day. This seems like a problem specific to AMD models; other reviews indicate that Intel variants sport a much longer battery life.

Performance-wise, AMD’s new chips proved that it’s capable of keeping pace with Intel’s last-generation i7 mobile processors. It’s regrettable that we aren’t able to test out Intel-based models with similar configurations.

It will be interesting to see if Microsoft will continue to source processors from AMD for its next Surface Laptop refresh. At the time of writing, AMD’s new Ryzen 4000 series mobile processors are showing promising performance and efficiency improvements, earning their position in a variety of business designs like the HP ProBook.

AMD 400 series motherboards to support ‘Zen 3’ processors

After receiving waves of backlash from its users, AMD announced support for its upcoming processors based on the Zen 3 microarchitecture for the X470 and B450 series motherboards, retracting an earlier decision to omit these platforms for these future products.

In a Reddit thread, AMD said that it’s working with motherboard partners to develop basic input-output systems (BIOS) versions that would enable support for Zen 3 processors on X470 and B450 motherboards.

Once flashed onto the motherboard, the new BIOS would disable support for older generation Ryzen processors to free up space for new BIOS codes. The upgrade is one-way, meaning that users cannot revert back to an older BIOS version once the upgrade is complete. To avoid a “no-boot” situation, users would need to provide proof that they’ve purchased a Zen 3 desktop processor and a 400 series motherboard before they can download the BIOS.

Earlier this month, AMD published a blog post announcing that the fourth generation Ryzen processors would not be compatible with 400 series motherboards despite using the same AM4 socket. The company had previously promised to support the AM4 socket “until 2020”, but never specified an exact date for its retirement.

In the initial blog post, AMD cited BIOS size constraints to be the limiting factor. The blogpost explained that at a maximum of 16MB, the read-only memory (ROM) used to store the BIOS is too small to hold the code necessary to support the new processors.

The hardware community immediately criticized the move. Users who had hoped to upgrade in the future were especially vocal. Because AMD delayed its affordable mainstream B550 motherboard chipset, many new entrants to AMD had to purchase 400 series motherboards as it’s the most affordable entry point to the platform. In addition, many blamed AMD for failing to communicate that new processor support would be a feature for 500 motherboards and that it would have affected their purchasing decision.

Furthermore, many dismissed AMD’s reasonings and argued that motherboard manufacturers could simply add more ROM. Others called for the company to trim support for older processors to make room for the new codes.

AMD noted that the availability of the new BIOS will vary and may not coincide with the Zen 3 processor launch.

Intel releases 10th gen vPro processors for businesses

Intel recently released its 10th gen vPro desktop and mobile businesses, bringing a bevy of management and security features along with improved performance.

In total, Intel launched 27 SKU across its mobile and desktop Core i5, Core i7, and Xeon ranges. All announced processors are ones based on the Comet Lake architecture instead of Ice Lake. Interestingly, several vPro processors have unlocked multipliers for overclocking, as denoted by their “K” suffix. While overclocking capabilities are interesting for enthusiasts, business owners care little for them. They favour a product’s consistency and reliability over tunable performance.

Intel’s vPro platform is a portfolio of both quality assurance and hardware features. vPro-certified processors have higher quality, carry hardware security features for low-level protection and more robust remote management. They also undergo a rigorous validation process to ensure that they’re compatible with new technologies. The vPro platform also sets criteria outside of the processor by requiring specific chipset and high-end memory I/O components like Optane memory.

Intel vPro features list (click to expand)

Intel’s 10th gen vPro processors also bring implications for Project Athena, Intel’s new standard for mobile laptops. Previously, Athena-certified business laptops like the HP Elite Dragonfly had to rely on Intel’s 8th gen vPro processors. The release of the 10th gen vPro processors will replace them in future Athena business laptop designs.

Intel 10th gen vPro desktop processors (click to expand)
Intel 10th gen vPro mobile processors (click to expand)

 

Intel 10th gen vPro processors will be coming to products from HP, Dell and Lenovo among others.

Nvidia GTC 2020: Ampere is here, meet the EGX A100 accelerator

During the Nvidia GPU Technology Conference today, Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang revealed the Nvidia EGX A100 converged accelerator powered by the company’s next-generation Ampere graphics processing unit (GPU) architecture.

Though the Ampere GPU architecture is still shrouded in mystery, it has been confirmed that it will be built using TSMC’s 7nm transistors. Ampere is considered to be a major architectural redesign from the current Volta architecture. 

Ampere’s first product, the A100, will strictly target heavy workstation workloads such as simulation, rendering, machine learning, and cloud virtualizations. The particular GPU on the A100 consists of 54 billion transistors and new features like new security engine, third-gen Tensor cores with new Floating Point 32 precision. The A100 also integrates the Nvidia Mellanox CoonnectX-6DX network adapter onboard.

Nvidia EGX Edge AI software stack

“By installing the EGX into a standard x86 server, you turn it into a hyper-converged, secure, cloud-native, AI powerhouse, it’s basically an entire cloud data centre in one box,” said Huang.

Complementing the EGX A100 is Nvidia’s EGX cloud-native AI platform with a focus on remote management and secure data processing.

The A100 is also designed with scalability in mind. With the multi-instance GPU (MIG) feature, a single A100 can be partitioned into up to seven independent GPUs, each with its own dedicated resources. Or, several A100 servers can act as a single GPU by connecting through Nvidia’s NVLink.

On its product page, Nvidia claims that the A100 can deliver up to six times higher performance for training and seven times higher performance for inference compared to Volta, Nvidia’s previous architecture.

The Nvidia EGX A100 is in full production and shipping to customers worldwide. Expected system integrators include Amazon Web Services (AWS), Cisco, Dell Technologies, Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure among others. More details on the Ampere architecture will be revealed on Tuesday, May 19, at Nvidia’s GTC virtual event.

AMD releases Radeon Pro VII graphics card, offers big FP64 performance on a budget

AMD is targeting the pros with the announcement of its Radeon Pro VII workstation graphics card on May 13.

Based on the Vega 20 GPU, the Radeon Pro VII graphics card features 60 compute units (CUs), four fewer than the full Vega 20 GPU on the consumer Radeon VII graphics card. It comes with 16GB of ECC high-bandwidth memory (HBM) capable of reaching 1TB/s bandwidth. The card also communicates over the PCIe 4.0 bus, which has double the throughput as PCIe 3.0.

The AMD Radeon Pro VII excels at double-precision floating-point number crunching, offering 6.5 tera floating-point operations per second (TFLOPS) in FP64. With the Radeon Pro VII, AMD aims to offer an affordable option for design and simulation professionals working with high-precision workloads. Simultaneously, it hopes to capture the attention of VFX and media production teams with its 16GB memory buffer useful for holding high-res media assets.

One neat AMD’s exclusive feature is ProRender 2.0. Typically, the rendering process is done either through GPU or the CPU. ProRender 2.0 renders the CPU and GPU simultaneously to cut down on render time. It’s compatible with AMD Threadripper processors, as well as its consumer-oriented Ryzen 9 and 7 platforms. Applications with ProRender plug-in support include Unreal Engine, Autodesk Maya, SideFX Houdini, Blender among others. AMD made ProRender SDKs available under Apache Licence 2.0 to shaving off some back-and-forth legal headaches for developers looking to implement them into their software.

Radeon Pro VII comes with six DP1.4 ports for multi-panel synchronized high-resolution output. A typical use case would be a large scale, multi-panel digital signage, or filming using synchronized LED backdrops. By attaching up to four Radeon Pro VII to an AMD FirePro S400 sync module, up to 24 displays can work in sync as a common output.

The AMD Radeon Pro VII is available in June for US$1,900 (around CA$2,660) through Memory Express and Newegg Canada.

CIO Strategy Council director says its new standards needed while legislation ‘catches up’

The CIO Strategy Council published a new National Standard of Canada for third-party access to data last week, news that quickly got buried after Sidewalk Labs announced it was pulling the plug on its smart city project in Toronto.

And while the rest of the country argues over whether or not the project’s demise is good or bad for the country, the absence of such standards during the early planning stages of the project becomes increasingly evident in retrospect, according to Keith Jansa, executive director of the CIO Strategy Council.

“This is where standards become a very effective tool, because you have a consensus built across diverse interest groups, and you have that dialogue on a national level that effectively provides a high level of assurance that these minimum requirements benefit the businesses and individuals,” Jansa said.

A quick look at Waterfront Toronto’s initial request for proposal reveals next to zero mention of third-party access to people’s data or a set of standards interested applicants would have to adhere to. Meanwhile, Sidewalk Labs’ attempts to quell fears among the public when it came to protecting people’s information came in the form of an urban data trust, a concept that was eventually scrapped after pushback from privacy experts.

And while the project likely collapsed due to a number of reasons – Dan Doctoroff, Sidewalk Labs’ chief executive officer, published a blog post citing “unprecedented economic uncertainty” from the COVID-19 pandemic as the primary reason – a set of standards, such as the ones published by the CIO Strategy Council, could have helped Waterfront Toronto and Sidewalk Labs reach consensus on a number of items, including third-party access to data, much faster, Jansa explained.

“Whether you’re a public or private company, the government, a not-for-profit, the scope of these standards can be applied across all industries and across all the organizations,” he said, noting these guidelines help those organizations establish a strong baseline to combat the rising number of cyber and privacy threats.

The two standards that are currently published are around the ethical design and use of automated decision systems and third-party access to data. Another standard focusing on the data protection of digital assets was submitted to the Standards Council of Canada for approval as a National Standard of Canada on May 8, indicated Jansa on Twitter. The latest standard about third-party access to data is a 10-page document covering organizational and risk management, as well as control access and confidentiality. It got the attention of Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, who praised the new standard in a recent statement.

Several more are planned, including standards offering organizations guidance around de-identification. It’s unclear when, if at all, these standards will eventually be reflected in future legislation or amendments to current ones, but Jansa mentioned how the standards help support Canada’s 10-principle Digital Charter. The Charter is a series of proposals that would bring federal privacy private sector legislation — the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) — close to the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation.

“These standards serve as an effective mechanism as regulation and legislation catch up,” Jansa said.

The government has confirmed that it wants the Digital Charter to apply to all federal legislation and regulations. However, PIPEDA, the Competition Act, the Canada Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) and possibly the Competition Act would have to be changed.

Anyone interested in participating in the development of these standards, Jansa encourages people to contact him. The standards are formed with the help of technical committees featuring more than 100 stakeholders and experts spanning government, industry, academia and civil society groups, according to Jansa, who reinforced the notion that these standards can’t be built without a diverse group of participants engaged in the process.

“Any stakeholder can engage in the process. There’s no fee to participate,” he said.

 

Correction: A previous version of this article said the data protection of digital assets standard was submitted to the National Standards of Canada. However, the standard was submitted to the Standards Council of Canada for approval as a National Standard of Canada. IT World apologizes for the error.

IBM Think 2020: How 5G can benefit satellite networks

The ubiquity of 5G will cover everything from IoT sensors, to smart devices, to cloud communication. But the technology that spawned from 5G development can extend well beyond just global networks. At IBM Think 2020, MIT Professor Muriel Médard spoke about how satellites can also benefit from the development of 5G.

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One of 5G’s plethora of features is a coding technique called Random Linear Network Coding (RLNC). Médard defined network coding as a “mathematical manipulation of data that to be reliably retrieved, reliably represented and transported in a network”.

In essence, through complex encoding and decoding techniques, RLNC can reassemble lost packets in a data stream by the receiver. This reduces the need to resend data when they become lost. It can increase reliability when sending sensitive information like financial data, as well as be applied to monitor sensors and vehicles in remote areas.

RLNC’s encoding, transmission, and decoding process. Source: Random Linear Network Coding for 5G Mobile Video Delivery

As a backgrounder, to transmit large quantities of data between two devices, the information must first be cut up and encapsulated into packets. Sending data via small packets provides many benefits, including higher efficiency and increased reliability. If data becomes corrupted or lost during transmission, only the affected packets need to be resent rather than the entire dataset.

In urban centres, radio towers are relatively near the user, thus creating stronger signals that are more resistant to environmental factors. In satellite networks, however, the long-distance between the sender and the receiver renders it vulnerable to disruptions from inclement weather. In addition, high latency compounds the finicky signal; if data becomes lost during transit, it will take longer to resend.

Despite its shortcomings, underserved communities in Canada and around the world rely on satellite to stay connected. Due to geographical and business limitations, it’s not always feasible to pull landlines and install towers to these locations. It’s critical for satellite network technologies to advance in parallel with the networks back on the ground.

AMD Zen 3 processors will be incompatible with 400 series and older motherboards

Robert Hallock, AMD technical market lead, confirmed that AMD’s upcoming Zen 3 processors will not work with motherboards with 400 series chipsets and older.

In a blogpost, Hallock confirmed that Zen 3 processors will continue to use the AM4 socket, but will only be backwards compatible with AMD’s X570 and B550 motherboards. While 500 series motherboards would only require a BIOS update to enable compatibility, users on older platforms would need to purchase a new motherboard.

“AMD has no plans to introduce ‘Zen 3’ architecture support for older chipsets,” Hallock wrote. “While we wish could enable full support for every processor on every chipset, the flash memory chips that store BIOS settings and support have capacity limitations. Given these limitations, and the unprecedented longevity of the AM4 socket, there will inevitably be a time and place where a transition to free up space is necessary—the AMD 500 Series chipsets are that time.”

AMD’s processor and platform support roadmap thus far.

the AM4 socket was announced alongside the first generation Ryzen processors in 2016. When it was released, AMD had promised to support the AM4 socket until 2020. Because the socket has yet to reach end-of-life, users of AMD’s older platforms hoped to be able to upgrade to AMD’s 4th generation Ryzen processors once they arrive. Zen 3 will be the first time where a Ryzen processor isn’t backwards compatible with all three generations of AMD’s platforms (assuming the motherboard vendor provides the BIOS that supports them as well). Up until now, all AMD motherboards are compatible with most processors from all three generations of Ryzen processors.

Although AM4 is nearing its obsolescence, AMD has yet to announce its retirement or successor. The company is looking to cement its future processor development before making an announcement.