April 27, 2018 // 10:13 a.m.
Intel has officially confirmed reports that Jim Keller, designer of AMD's K7, K8, and Zen processor microarchitectures, has joined the company to lead its silicon engineering division.
Largely responsible for AMD's K7 and K8 microarchitectures, launched in the Athlon 64 and Opteron 64 mainstream and server processors and featuring the industry's first x86-compatible 64-bit instruction set architecture, Jim Keller left the company prior to the launch of the K9 family and bounced around companies including Broadcom, SiByte, P.A. Semi, and Apple. The launch of the Bulldozer architecture, with which Keller was not involved, marked a turning point for AMD's fortunes as it lost ground to Intel - a company which had itself made a similar mistake years prior, allowing AMD to take the performance crown by launching the troubled NetBurst architecture with the Pentium 4 processor family before abandoning it six years later.
While AMD continued to praise Bulldozer and its successors, the first hint that it was planning a return to a more classic design came in 2012 when the company re-hired Keller and put him to work on what is now known as the Zen microarchitecture - a K8-inspired architecture which does away with Bulldozer altogether. Three years later, Keller once again left the company and joined electric car giant Tesla to head up its autonomous vehicle division - a role he has now left to join AMD's long-standing rival Intel.
'Jim is one of the most respected microarchitecture design visionaries in the industry, and the latest example of top technical talent to join Intel,' says Dr. Murthy Renduchintala, Intel’s chief engineering officer and group president of the company's Technology, Systems Architecture & Client Group (TSCG). 'We have embarked on exciting initiatives to fundamentally change the way we build the silicon as we enter the world of heterogeneous process and architectures. Jim joining us will help accelerate this transformation.'
'I had a great experience working at Tesla, learned a lot, and look forward to all the great technology coming from Tesla in the future. My lifelong passion has been developing the world’s best silicon products,' adds Keller. 'The world will be a very different place in the next decade as a result of where computing is headed. I am excited to join the Intel team to build the future of CPUs, GPUs, accelerators and other products for the data-centric computing era.'
Keller's decision to join Intel marks the second high-profile engineer AMD has lost to its rival, following its hiring of former AMD Radeon Technologies Group head Raja Koduri back in November last year.
AMD has not commented on the hiring.