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AMD lead architect quits, Zen still on sched

Posted: 21 Sep 2015 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:AMD? x86 core? Jim Keller? processor?

On further reflection he concluded "it's not terribly shocking that once Zen was pretty much baked, he might see it as a good time to leave," Brookwood said. "He's a capable guy in coming up with architectures for processors, but he moves around a lot, the big question is whether this was just Keller's wanderlust or if there was something inside the company that got to him," he said.

"Papermaster has managed a lot of processor design projects over the years, so it's not like there's a total vacuum at AMD," he added.

Indeed, Papermaster spent 26 years at IBM working on projects including its PowerPC processor co-developed with Apple and Motorola. In the fall of 2008 was became a VP of hardware engineering at Apple for less than two years. He led the ASIC group at Cisco Systems for a year before joining AMD.

Keller's job at AMD was to design custom x86 and ARM cores and a flexible SoC architecture that could accommodate them. "The concept is you get two very different processors for very different markets for 25-50 per cent more effort," said Brookwood.

AMD said the Zen x86 core will execute 40 per cent more instructions per clock cycle than its current Excavator x86 cores. The design aimed to keep AMD in the same league as its larger rival Intel.

A separate custom 64bit ARM core, the K12, aims to help AMD stand out from a pack of ARM architecture licensees that includes Applied Micro, Broadcom, Cavium and Qualcomm. The common SoC architecture around the cores might also serve game console makers and other customers of AMD's custom processors.

"It's in those concepts which have been nailed down where people like Keller makes their contribution," said Brookwood.

It may take more than a year before the Zen and K12 products emerge and the rest of the world gets to evaluate them. Meanwhile, AMD and others are focused on leveraging their current products and Windows 10 to breathe much needed vitality into a PC market contracting by more than five per cent this year.

Regaining momentum is especially critical for AMD. Earlier this year, it slipped off one market researcher's list of top 20 semiconductor companies.

- Rick Merritt
??EE Times

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