Jim Keller Leaves AMD

Subject: Editorial | September 18, 2015 - 01:00 PM |
Tagged: Zen, raja koduri, lisa su, Jim Keller, bulldozer, amd

2012 was a significant year for AMD.  Many of the top executives left and there were many new and exciting hires at the company.  Lisa Su, who would eventually become President and CEO of AMD was hired in January of that year.  Rory Read seemed to be on a roll with many measures to turn around the company.  He also convinced some big name folks to come back to AMD from other lucrative positions.  One of these rehires was Jim Keller.

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Jim Keller, breakin it down for AMD. Or doing "The Robot". Or both.

Today it was announced that Jim would be leaving AMD effective Sept. 18th.  He was back at AMD for three years and in that time headed up the CPU group.  He implemented massive changes that would result in the design of the upcoming Zen architecture.  There was a full scale ejection of the Bulldozer concept that powered AMD processors since 2011 with the FX-8150 introduction with the current Excavator core design to last through 2016 with the final product being "Bristol Ridge,"expected next summer.  Zen will not ship until late 2016 with the first full quarter of revenue in 2017.

Jim helped to develop the K7 and K8 processors from AMD.  He also was extremely influential in the creation of the X86-64 ISA that not only powers AMD’s parts, but also was adopted by Intel after their disastrous EPIC/IA64 ISA failed to go anywhere.  His past also includes work at DEC on the Alpha processors and before AMD at Apple working on the A4 and A5 SOCs.

We do not know any of the details about his leaving, and perhaps never will.  AMD has released an official statement that “Jim Keller is leaving AMD to pursue other opportunities, effective September 18”.  Looking at Jim’s past employment, he seems to move around a bit.  Perhaps he enjoys coming into a place, turning things around, implementing some new thinking, but then becomes bored with the daily routine of management, budget, and planning.

In the near future this change will not affect AMD’s roadmaps or product lineups.  We still will see Bristol Ridge as the follow-up for Godavari in Summer 2016 and the late 2016 introduction of Zen.  What can be said beyond that is hard to quantify.  There are a lot of smart and talented people still working at AMD and perhaps this allows someone there to step up and introduce the next generation of architectures and thinking at AMD.  Everybody likes the idea of a rockstar designer coming in to shake things up, but time moves on and new people become those rockstars.

We wish Jim well on his new journey and hope that this is not a harbinger of things to come for AMD.  Consumers need the competition that AMD brings to the table and we certainly hope we see them continue to release new products and stay on a schedule that will benefit both them and consumers.  Perhaps he will join fellow veteran Glenn Henry at VIA/Centaur and produce the next, great X86-64 chip.  Perhaps not.

Source: AMD

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September 18, 2015 | 01:16 PM - Posted by Hellowalkman (not verified)

This is bad ... really really bad !!!!! :( :(

September 18, 2015 | 01:18 PM - Posted by Josh Walrath

Maybe, maybe not.  It won't change much in the near future, so they are still in the same boat... but not paying a rockstar designer a rockstar salary might really help the bottom line.

September 18, 2015 | 01:31 PM - Posted by Hellowalkman (not verified)

2 things are possible..

1) AMD have got some working zen samples and they are bad so Keller has left before the ship sinks completely ..

2) AMD can't afford Keller and the latter was probably under too much stress at AMD so he left .

Either way it's bad though...

Even if Zen is somewhat decent , without Keller's guidance Zen+ is going to a turd ..

September 18, 2015 | 01:42 PM - Posted by Josh Walrath

Considering a late 2016 release, I would be surprised if they have first samples in of Zen. I would expect right around the beginning of the year for those.

Still lots of talented people at AMD. Perhaps as I mentioned above, this makes room for someone else to shine and advance new and innovative ideas for processor design.  Also, with Keller gone, it probably saves a couple million $ a year.  Looking at pictures from 2012 to now, it seems like AMD has taken its toll on Keller.  He doesn't need the money that bad.

September 18, 2015 | 01:51 PM - Posted by Hellowalkman (not verified)

It's very difficult to stay optimistic in such hard times ...

September 18, 2015 | 02:06 PM - Posted by booboop (not verified)

Had Keller wanted money, he'd have stayed at Apple.

We shouldn't forget that Keller rejoined AMD: being a head honcho with complete reassurance and confidence with respect to leading the direction of their entire CPU division. Keller is now going elsewhere before Zen is released and final silicon is in hand, and before K12 is even done with regards to design. Coincidentally (or not), Radeon tech group is formed with Koduri at the helm as a near separate entity.

I see no upside here, Josh. Keller wasn't even done with what he started and he's leaving.

September 18, 2015 | 04:01 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

For all you Know Apple may have sent Jim Keller over to AMD to stabilize one of its important parts suppliers, or to have Jim Keller start the process of getting Zen going for Apple to move over to AMD's x86 based APUs for their line of Macbooks, and maybe even the MAC Pro. AMD supplies GPUs to Apple, at a great price, maybe Apple had reasons for letting Jim Keller go, maybe not! Apple does not sell CPUs/APUs on the open market, so Apple may have sent Keller over to stabilize AMD's CPU designs, and maybe Apple is expecting Zen to offer an Intel alternative with much better graphics, and even AMDs GPUs can be used for compute. Apple would like the idea of interposer based APUs for the motherboard space savings potential alone, not to mention even the power savings around the use of HBM!

September 19, 2015 | 05:58 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Keller has a history of switching jobs. Did he leave Apple because his designs were so bad or Apple could not afford him?

Let's take another perspective: Zen as micro-architecture is finished, AMD will do nothing more in the next years than gradually improving the design. Keller would only sit bored in his office and do nothing.

September 18, 2015 | 02:47 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Considering all the compute style ACE resources that are available from AMD's GPU cores are CPUs that important going forward! Single CPU core IPCs are not going to be as important any more, even Intel's or IBM's CPUs do not have the FP/INT/other raw computing resources compared to those hundreds or thousands of GPU cores.

The design work for Zen is already done, and Jim Keller can move on to other companies and work there. Jim Keller's design teams remain at work at AMD and there is plenty of engineering talent at AMD, especially on the GPU side of things. Just look at Keller's Wikipedia entry and see all the places that he has worked for including DEC and P.A. Semiconductor. I'd like to see Jim Keller start his own company and design CPUs/SOCs for the licensed IP market, then a lot more systems could benefit from his years of experience.

September 18, 2015 | 01:20 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Bulldozer 2.0 all over again.

September 18, 2015 | 01:31 PM - Posted by StephanS

So now, its 100% certain that the next gen of consoles will be ARM based.

Also AMD will slowly exit from the x86 market even in lowend desktop/laptop. Its not cost efficient because at those price point most if not all the cost goes to the fab.

Intel own the fab, so they make a profit no matter what, but for AMD the low end x86 market is a money loss. And AMD cant design x86 core like skylake to go after the lucrative server/workstation business.

This also seem to indicate that AMD wont be to innovative on the ARM front and will focus on the Radeon group to bring in design business.

Frankly Microsoft should just buy AMD, write off the money loosing x86 division and make killer high powered ARM based SOC. For VR and other demanding designs.

September 18, 2015 | 03:00 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

microsoft LOL u mad ill never purchase anything from amd ever again..

September 18, 2015 | 04:03 PM - Posted by Mobile_Dom

you are aware that if *Anyone* buys AMD, Intel gets to terminate their x86 license? making them the sole creator and imimplementor of x86/64 arch, and something tells me they wont feel particularly generous andd open up to another company making x86 parts.

if Intel would have let *anyone* elsee make x86 part i can almost guarentee you that apple would haveve made their own x86 based SoCs for their mac lineup

September 19, 2015 | 01:45 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

But then The US justice Department Antitrust division will have to go to court and have Intel Broken up, or force Intel to grant AMD's Buyer an x86(16/32 bit) ISA license, AMD is the creator of the x86(64 bit) ISA which Intel licenses from AMD as part of the total x86 cross license agreement between AMD and Intel for the x86 ISA. Plus does VIA still have an x86 license.

I think if AMD were taken private at least the stock market manipulators(short selling, etc.) would be taken out of the equation, and by AMD getting some private equity group financing all this continued back seat business commentary by folks would stop. Dell computers was taken private by the same private equity group financing that AMD is getting. And not having to worry about the stock investors, and stock market swings on every little bit of news would help AMD focus on getting its future technology products to market.

The Zen and K12 designs that Jim Keller has finished are now going to be taped out and validated, Keller's work being done, so expect that Zen will have its SMT capabilities, and the AMD's K12 custom ARM cores may be the first ARMv8A ISA based custom micro-architecture designs that supports Simultaneous multi-threading(SMT). Jim Keller's contract is done, so he moves on to another contract with someone else, and AMDs engineering teams begin work on Zen's validation first, before they can then focus on K12's Validation after Zen is ready for production, AMD only has so much engineering resources, and Zen in top priority.

AMD's GPU engineers are hard at work on validating Arctic Islands micro-architecture(new GPU ISA) and the Greenland graphics will have even more hardware asynchronous compute ability to take on even more of the running of both the gaming and gaming graphics code for future games, via Gaming APIs like DX12, Vulkan, and Apples Metal. Expect that even more gaming loads will be moved to the GPU ACE units on AMD's graphics processors allowing games to be much less burdened by the CPU to GPU latency issues, and allowing for games to perform better on all brands of CPU cores.

AMD's HPC/workstation APUs will give more R&D and revenues for AMD to continuously improve its GPU's asynchronous compute abilities, along with graphics abilities, especially with those Government exascale computing initiative R&D grants increasing in the upcoming years. AMDs is going to bring more compute to the GPU and further integrate the CPU with the GPU on APUs in the coming years so most software will be using the GPU for compute in addition to the CPU, and that includes the gaming engine code that used to be run on only the CPU in the past.

P.S. Apple would not have to by AMD to get a custom x86 APU made for Apple's exclusive use, AMD already supplies custom APUs to the console market. And if Jim Keller winds up back at Apple, I suspect that maybe it's plausible that Jim Keller may have been sent to AMD to get Zen created in advance of Apple commissioning a custom Zen series of parts for Apple's line of Macbooks and Mac Pros, Apple does not sale SOCs on the open market anyways, so why would it need to own AMD, as AMDs custom CPU/APU division is already supplying custom x86 based APUs to the console makers for those console makers exclusive use. Why would Apple want all the x86 cross licensing headaches if Apple can already commission AMD to make a custom x86 APU like the gaming console OEMs did!

September 18, 2015 | 07:36 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

The next consoles/games will be running everything on the GPU, so the CPU used won't matter very much. The CPU will probably be still x86 based but who cares about the IPCs of 8 or so measly CPU cores with a few threads when the GPU offers many ACE units with thousands of GPU cores and asynchronous processing threads running on the GPUs hardware!

Silly CPU peasants!

September 18, 2015 | 01:47 PM - Posted by Daniel Nielsen (not verified)

Hey Josh, can you make the font bigger? It's hard to see the article from all the pessimism, gloom and doom that going on here in what i think is the comment section.

September 18, 2015 | 01:54 PM - Posted by Josh Walrath

The timing is odd and surprising, but change happens at any company.  He has made some serious scratch over the years and probably would like to enjoy it.  I don't think AMD is any worse off now than they were last month before this announcement.

September 18, 2015 | 01:48 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

It is official. AMD is death.

September 18, 2015 | 01:52 PM - Posted by Hellowalkman (not verified)

Anyone else wondering what happens to the ARM K12 design now that Jim Keller has left ????! :P :P

September 18, 2015 | 02:04 PM - Posted by Josh Walrath

Um, they will produce it and then iterate on it for future releases?

September 18, 2015 | 02:43 PM - Posted by Hellowalkman (not verified)

But the K12 design isn't even done yet I believe .

September 18, 2015 | 03:29 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

How do you Know and most CPU designs get frozen, and then the design's certification period must begin(Months) and any bugs worked out of the design before any large scale tape-outs can begin, and then do not forget that the Fab partners need to get the final production designs working on the fab process before even Risk production can begin(more Months). And the fab process certification can take even longer for new production process nodes(even more Months).

Do you even Know the exact reason that K12 was pushed back, K12 may be already done but AMD needs to focus more resources making sure Zen is ready in 2nd half of 2016!

September 18, 2015 | 10:25 PM - Posted by Hellowalkman (not verified)

yea.. well in an interview Lisa Su did mention they are designing Zen+ and K12+ .

September 19, 2015 | 06:00 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Actually the K12 design is mostly done. Supposedly it has been ready since mid-2015, but the delays are related to GF having troubles with Samsungs 14FF process.

September 18, 2015 | 02:48 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

This sucks..
I wouldn't work under a stupid woman who ruins every possible opportunity either.
Kick her out and let a man do the CEO work..
Things will turn around naturally..
With 10% less brain mass and 1/6th the grey matter of a man, we can't expect much from a woman anyway..

September 18, 2015 | 03:01 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

dont be a dick

September 18, 2015 | 03:31 PM - Posted by Humanitarian

Thanks for reminding me there are people like this in 2015

September 18, 2015 | 03:42 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Man Most of you would make great North Korean party members! So hooked on your cults of personality, and with so little real knowledge on the complexities of a high technology industry like semiconductors, and CPU/GPU design and production, let alone any of the computing sciences involved. Single individual engineers do not make these products it requires thousands of engineers across many companies to make even a single CPU. A single senior architectural managerial engineer is mostly burnt out just managing a single project and the world does not stop when a manager moves on.

Where do they get these Gits from, espically YOUR brand of mindless GIT!

September 18, 2015 | 03:16 PM - Posted by funandjam

I think he left because he wants more time to work on his "robot" moves.

September 18, 2015 | 03:56 PM - Posted by Raul (not verified)

Zen is the most important thing for AMD, the news that Keller is leaving at this critical juncture leaves the kind of question mark that no one in AMD can afford to have. Neither AMD management or Jim will be so reckless. So what else can it possibly be. A standard press releases about 'opportunities' just doesn't cut it. Too much is riding on Zen.

It's like AMD management themselves have given up on Zen, and Jim Keller thus has nothing to do. If AMD can't pull off Zen its more than just AMD's loss, it a huge loss for consumers too. There are tons of folks rooting for Zen. Intel can't be the only chip maker, that's just too depressing to even contemplate.

September 18, 2015 | 04:05 PM - Posted by JohnGR

Oh, this is definitely bad. Not just Keller, but the date. We are already in 2017 for Zen and this could become even worst and end up middle of 2017. Last chance for AMD to survive is to see DX12 giving extra value to Radeon cards and APUs. If not, then ...the end.

September 18, 2015 | 05:43 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

No not bad at all, Jim Keller probably already had Zen's and K12's designs done and his contract was up, Time to move on to wherever his talents are most needed. Jim Keller wherever he lays his engineers hat down is his new CPU design home.

His work at AMD was done, and let the junior engineers, and fab process engineers do the boring grunt work to get the chips out the door. He very well could be back at Apple, getting Apple ready and lined up for some custom Zen based APUs for their line of Macbooks, and a Zen/Greenland/HBM APU on an interposer based SKU for Mac Pro line of workstation cans!

September 19, 2015 | 10:32 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

no joke this isn't some 1 man army. You think intel relies on 1 person for all their chips.

Plenty of talent at AMD.

September 18, 2015 | 06:38 PM - Posted by Dean (not verified)

Sounds like he may of done what he can for AMD and simply moving on?

September 18, 2015 | 06:48 PM - Posted by Edmond (not verified)

Hes leaving cuz his work for Zen is done, you idiots.

Juse like Carmack leaving id software when he was done with the doom4 engine.

September 18, 2015 | 08:39 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

“Jim Keller is leaving AMD to pursue other opportunities, effective September 18” is a non-event.

The following things are very important to AMD:

(1) Raja Koduri will run AMD Radeon group -- done deal.
(2) AMD64 re-license to Intel -- undecided.
(3) Intel/NVidia license deal -- undecided.
(4) MS interest in buying AMD -- unknown.
(5) Infusion of cash to AMD from MS or Intel -- unknown.
(6) Global Foundaries 14 nm FinFet process status -- delayed or not delayed.

AMD is a broken company inside. I think Bruce Claflin and the other directors have already destroyed AMD. AMD needs to fire Lisa Su and Mark Papermaster and several others. Raja Koduri should run the whole company like Steve Job did at Apple a long time ago.

September 19, 2015 | 01:41 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Is Raja Koduri that talented or charismatic??
Lisa 'shoe' should be kicked out.. she has contaminated amd enough not making use of any opportunities..
She's just a burden..
An integrated approach was not followed by Steve.. He just made it a race between the divisions of apple..

September 19, 2015 | 12:16 AM - Posted by btdog

If the official statement read verbatim: "Jim Keller is leaving AMD to pursue other opportunities, effective September 18," then this is code by the company to say, he was let go (most likely without his advance notice). I've seen this wording many-a-time in my career - it's never a pretty thing to see, no matter who the recipient is.

I don't know Jim, but I do feel for him.

September 19, 2015 | 01:37 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Okay. So if it is because Jim moves around...are we to assume that the K12 chip has been completed and just needs to be put to mass production? (in addition to completion of zen)..
That's bs..
I think maybe someone tested his patience.. or maybe he just gave up on amd..
I'd love it if zen has been completed.. I'm itching for an upgrade.. and I won't upgrade to intel unless amd ends up screwing up big time..

September 19, 2015 | 03:51 AM - Posted by Hellowalkman (not verified)

Lisa Su mentioned in an interview that designing K12 and Zen are both complete .

September 19, 2015 | 05:14 PM - Posted by Humanitarian

What interview was that?

I know Zen has been taped out but according to their FAD, k12 got pushed back to focus on zen.

I've not heard anything new on that front

September 20, 2015 | 01:37 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

It's not only that the K12, and Zen designs are finished but that K12 will have SMT features like Zen is getting. SMT(Simultaneous multithreading) in an Custom ARMv8a ISA running custom micro-architecture would be a first. And Keller was supposed to be designing both with similar feature sets one to run the x86 ISA, and another for the ARM ISA versions.

So expect both the ARM K12, and the Zen x86 based systems to have similar procesor caching, and SMT, instruction Reorder, wide order superscalar design, other features in common while their micro-architecture/engines are made to run their respective X86(Zen) and Armv8a(k12) ISAs. Expect that if AMD's K12 comes with SMT that even Apple's current A9's may not have the single core IPC performence of K12. That is if Apple has not already made the A9's cores with SMT, but we will not Know because since the Apple A8 there still has not been any full information about the A8's or above core micro-architecture from the "Technology press"!

September 21, 2015 | 12:15 AM - Posted by Hellowalkman (not verified)

There you go .. http://www.kitguru.net/components/graphic-cards/anton-shilov/amd-technol...

September 21, 2015 | 10:59 AM - Posted by Cyclops

Did he ask for too much money or something? Thanks for the Zen, buddy, but we've got employees to feed.

September 21, 2015 | 07:23 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

No, more like his work at AMD was done and his skills are better utilized on the next project than on the minute details that are better remanded over to the ZEN/K12 design teams and fab engineers. Keller's work up of both ZEN's and K12's designs is finished and why waste his skills on things that junior engineers can solve. Look for both the K12, and Zen cores to have similar CPU resources with the only differences between the chips being the individual micro-architectures implemented in the hardware engines that run the ARMv8A 32/64 bit ISA(for K12) and the x86 32/64 ISA(for Zen).

This means that K12 will have many of the execution features similar to Apple's A7/A8/A9, with AMD bringing possibly SMT capabilities to its custom ARMv8A ISA based APU. Apple's A series SOCs do not utilize SMT, but the K12 will possibly have SMT and a wide order superscalar design with 6 or more instruction decoders feeding a larger number of execution pipelines.

AMD's Zen will have SMT instead of CMT, and the Zen cores will probably be wider than excavator’s with no core sharing of FP/other execution units, as well as better Caching, and resource management. Zen's x86 cores will be full fat cores with their own FP, Instruction decoder/other execution units, and be more seamlessly integrated with the GPU on AMD's APUs, including AMD's server/HPC/workstation APUs that will be APUs on an interposer with Greenland GPU accelerators, and HBM. The Interposer based APUs will be wired up with the same type of wide parallel traces CPU to GPU, and to HBM unified memory.

For its low power ARM, and X86 designs AMD could also utilize more of its high density design libraries tuned for higher density lower power using layouts that allowed AMD to get more CPU/Other circuity on its Carrizo APU SKUs. And for Desktop/gaming laptop SKUs AMD could instead go with a more traditional lower density higher performance circuit layout design for Zen, and K12 SKUs for the gaming laptop through server/HPC designs. AMD Arctic Islands based graphics will have even higher performing ACE units and a completely new GPU ISA.

Jim Keller is basically a lead/management engineer for hire, and goes wherever his leading edge skills are needed to get the design's done and then its off to a new project. Just look at the Wikipedia entry for the places and projects that he has had a part of, and it's not like he is 30 years old anymore, he deserves some time off before his next project and props to Jim for getting his part of the contract done.

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