Advanced Micro Devices, which is making an aggressive push in both high-end PCs and the data center in an effort to gain market share from larger rival Intel, will now have to do so without the services of its top chip architect.
Jim Keller, who as chief architect has a driving force behind the development of AMD’s upcoming “Zen” chip architecture, has left the company to pursue other opportunities, according to the company. His departure was effective Sept. 18.
This was Keller’s second stint with AMD, having been with the company in the early 2000s and helping the company develop such products as the K7 and K8 Athlon architecture and the 64-bit x86 chips, which were introduced with the company’s first Opteron server processors in 2003 and helped grow AMD’s server market share beyond 20 percent. It also forced Intel to move past its Itanium initiative to bring 64-bit capabilities to its x86 Xeon chips.
He left AMD and ended up at Apple, where he worked on the tech vendor’s A4 and A5 chips for such devices as iPhones and iPads, then returned to AMD in 2012. Keller headed up the development of the Zen CPU, a core design more than two years in the making that AMD officials say will play a key role in future PC and server chips. It will support simultaneous multi-threading (SMT)—a technology similar to Intel’s Hyper-Threading—and DDR4 memory, and will feature a FinFET transistor design for the 14-nanometer chips. Company engineers already are working on the follow-on, which Mark Papermaster, CTO and senior vice president of technology and engineering, in May called “Zen+.”
An AMD spokesman in an email confirmed Keller’s departure, saying that Papermaster will lead the development team in the interim. The spokesman wrote that a “deep team was in place to drive [the] completion phase of our next-generation ‘Zen’ core and associated system IP and SOCs [systems-on-a-chip]. His departure is not expected to impact our public product or technology roadmaps.”
Zen is scheduled for general availability next year and expected to generate its first full year of revenue in 2017, the spokesman said.