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.
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.