AMD’s history has been well documented, especially given several reorganizations in the early part of this decade along with changes in senior staff and how both its market share in CPU and GPU markets is progressing. Today we have learned that one of those senior staff, the head of the CPU group Jim Keller, is to leave AMD effective September 18th (today).  Readers may remember that Jim Keller was a recent re-hire in 2012, tasked with leading AMD's CPU group and helping the company develop new core processor architectures in order to bring AMD's architecture in line the competition.

Jim Keller has worked at AMD before, most notably developing the K7 and K8 processors that formed the basis of much of AMD’s success at the turn of the century. This includes assisting in the generation of the x86-64 instruction set that would form the basis of many of the x86 based computers people used today. At other points in time Jim has also spent several years each at Apple helping design their A4 and A5 SoCs as well as at DEC on Alpha processors, giving him a wide degree of experience in CPU development that AMD has been tapping during his latest tenure there.

As a re-hire at the top of the CPU chain, Keller's latest project at AMD was to develop the next generation of high performance processors for AMD and to build a team around the concept of PC performance. This was announced as a rapid departure from the module design of Bulldozer-based cores sharing parts of a processor and towards a new base architecture called Zen. Other projects in the pipeline at AMD CPU group include ARM-based AMD processors (K12), an ARM counterpart of sorts for Zen that is set to launch later on.

As for the big question, the state of Zen, along with confirming that Keller is leaving the company today, AMD is also officially reiterating that their roadmaps are still on course, with Zen set to come to market in the latter half of 2016 and a first full preiod of revenue to be reported in 2017. Given the long (4+ year) design cycles for a modern high-performance CPU, at this point in time all of the "heavy lifting" on Zen development should be done. With only a year or so to go before launch, the rest of Keller's team at AMD will be focusing on fixing bugs and bringing products to manufacturing.

As a result while the loss of Keller is certainly a significant one for AMD, Keller's architecture work on Zen should already be complete, which is likely why we are seeing him leave at this time. And as a quick aside to give you an idea of CPU development timelines, by comparison, Jim's work on K8 was done over 3 years before K8 shipped in 2003. Consequently the biggest loss for AMD here shouldn't be Zen-related, but rather that they won't have Keller's talents to call upon for further refinements of Zen or for a post-Zen architecture.

Meanwhile leadership of the CPU architecture team in Keller's absence will be turned over to CTO Mark Papermaster, who will be leading the group as they wrap up work on Zen. AMD is calling Mark the "acting leader" of the group, so this is likely an interim posting while AMD looks to find or promote someone to lead the CPU architecture group on a permanent basis. Otherwise as we're approaching the end of the fiscal quarter, AMD is in their quiet period, so AMD is limited in what they can say at this time. I suspect we'll hear a bit more on the plan for the final year of Zen development in the company's Q3 earnings release, which will be on October 14th.

Finally, it will be interesting to see if and when Keller will pop up next in the industry. Given his history of switching jobs to work on new CPU projects and his high level of skill which has allowed him to so freely move between companies, we may yet see Keller show up on another CPU project in the future. On the other hand after having worked for AMD twice and Apple, Keller has certainly earned an early retirement. In the meantime with the launch of Zen closing in for AMD, all eyes will be on just what Keller and his team have put together for AMD's next generation CPU.

Source: AMD
Top image (from left): Mark Papermaster (CTO), Dr. Lisa Su (CEO), Simon Segars (CEO of ARM), Jim Keller

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  • pklop - Sunday, September 20, 2015 - link

    "Note that this is as much discriminating for white or Asian males as it is discriminating for non-handicapped people to have a special toilet for the disabled. You could argue that it is discriminating but it is rather disingenuous."
    That's very different! It's an *additional" option, having a toilet arranged for handicapped people, so it doesn't make anything worse for those who don't need it.

    However as man who is talented in the tech domain, it is a disadvantage, because they can't suddenly go into other domains where they aren't welcome and actually ostracized, like arts or advertizement or media companies in general.

    This isn't about equality, it's about favoring one group, instead of working for real diversity, and stopping wrong ideals in general.

    So as net effect, it's negative for those people, just because they are white and male and into tech. It does not in any way recognize the individuality of the person, but puts a label on them, and assigns properties to that person based on external features.

    That *is* discrimination, and it's not positive (like the word positive discrimination implies).
  • Reflex - Sunday, September 20, 2015 - link

    Again, they are not declining to hire white or asian males. They are offering incentives to individuals who can recruit non-white or asian talent. They already offer a base incentive for any new hire, this is a bonus if the new hire is not white or asian. The hiring process itself is color blind, and the people making the hiring decision are not themselves given any sort of a bonus.

    As for your assertion, all of the areas you mentioned, arrts, advertising and media, are also dominated by white males. You can actually go in those directions with relative ease.
  • Sttm - Sunday, September 20, 2015 - link

    They are putting a bias in the form of money to favor candidates based on skin color and gender. That is blatant discrimination. Only a complete moron would think that Intel having paying out a bonus to get a candidate would just disregard that investment in the hiring process.
  • xthetenth - Monday, September 21, 2015 - link

    Or they find that they have a higher rate of successful interviews with candidates from those groups, and thus paying more to see those candidates isn't taking a loss because the talent pool's been less picked over and has more high quality talent that isn't already being utilized elsewhere, so the money's worth spending just to maximize the chances of getting a high quality hire.
  • xthetenth - Monday, September 21, 2015 - link

    They are paying more to incentivize looking at candidates that don't fit the stereotype and are thus less likely to have their top talent already recruited. Even if it's a smaller pool, the cream's less likely to be skimmed off and they probably have a better shot at high outliers in a pool that hasn't been as thoroughly combed for talent. Thus candidates from those less utilized pools are more valuable on average due to their higher chance of being worth hiring.

    It's sound business sense wrapped in positive pr for everyone who hasn't convinced themselves that somehow the world is against them as a poor put upon white man. And frankly that level of irrationality has no place in a company that makes logic circuits as their main product.
  • Sttm - Monday, September 21, 2015 - link

    Did you really just equate being female, black, or hispanic, to being handicapped. Holyshit.
  • xthetenth - Monday, September 21, 2015 - link

    In that it's a continuing refrain that people need to be reminded of their existence, it's a very accurate analogy.
  • jospoortvliet - Saturday, September 19, 2015 - link

    So they want a more diverse workforce and are aware of the advantages white and Asian males have in the tech industry. Trying to compensate for those advantages with such a bonus might not be the nicest thing to do, but it does make sense and if it works, I would do it.

    Note that this is as much discriminating for white or Asian males as it is discriminating for non-handicapped people to have a special toilet for the disabled. You could argue that it is discriminating but it is rather disingenuous.
  • Sttm - Sunday, September 20, 2015 - link

    They are literally paying a bonus based on skin color or the lack of a penis, and you idiots actually believe that is not discrimination. Well I am not an idiot. I am not going to be okay with Intel paying money for skin color or vaginas, no matter the reason.

    That is not how any company should operate.
  • xthetenth - Monday, September 21, 2015 - link

    I take it you also don't believe in calibrating measuring equipment because accounting for statistical bias is beyond your rational STEM white man brain?

    If it turned out that there was an industry wide bias against hiring people with a specific major who were just as good as the main majors hired, then you'd want to pay more to see them because they have a higher chance of being top quality. Normalizing for sampling bias makes good sense.

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