For long-time AnandTech readers, Jim Keller is a name many are familiar with. The prolific microarchitectural engineer has been involved in a number of high-profile CPU & SoC projects over the years, including AMD’s K8 and Zen CPUs and Apple’s early A-series SoCs. Now after a stint over as Tesla for the past couple of years, Intel has announced that they have hired Keller to lead their silicon engineering efforts.

After rumors on the matter overnight, in a press release that has gone out this morning, Intel confirmed that they have hired Jim Keller as a Senior Vice President. There, Keller will be heading up the 800lb gorilla’s silicon engineering group, with an emphasis on SoC development and integration. Beyond this, Intel’s press release is somewhat cryptic – especially as they tend not to be very forward about future processor developments. But it’s interesting to note that in a prepared statement included with the press release, Dr. Murthy Renduchintala – Intel’s Chief Engineering Officer – said that the company has “embarked on exciting initiatives to fundamentally change the way we build the silicon as we enter the world of heterogeneous process and architectures,” which may been seen as a hint of Intel’s future direction.

What is known for sure is that for most of the last decade, Keller’s engineering focus has been on low-power hardware. This includes not only his most recent stint at Tesla working on low voltage hardware, but also his time at Apple and PA Semiconductor developing Apple’s mobile SoCs, and even AMD’s Zen architecture is arguably a case of creating an efficient, low-power architecture that can also scale up to server CPU needs. So Keller’s experience would mesh well with any future development plans Intel has for developing low-power/high-efficiency hardware. Especially as even if Intel gets its fab development program fully back on track, there’s little reason to believe they’re going to be able to duplicate the manufacturing-derived performance gains they’ve reaped over the past decade.

As for any specific impact Keller might have on Intel’s efforts, that is a curiosity that remains to be seen. Keller’s credentials are second to none – he’s overseen a number of pivotal products – but it bears mentioning that modern processor engineering teams are massive groups working on development cycles that span nearly half a decade. A single rock star engineer may or may not be able to greatly influence an architecture, but at the same time I have to imagine that Intel has tapped Keller more for his leadership experience at this point. Especially as a company the size of Intel already has a number of good engineers at their disposal, and unlike Keller’s second run at AMD, the company isn’t recovering from a period of underfunding or trying to catch up to a market leader. In other words, I don’t expect that Intel is planning on a moment of Zen for Keller and his team.


One of Jim Keller's Many Children: AMD's Raven Ridge APU

Though with his shift to Intel, it’s interesting to note that Jim Keller has completed a de facto grand tour of the high performance consumer CPU world. In the last decade he’s worked for Apple, AMD, and now Intel, who are the three firms making the kind of modern ultra-wide high IPC CPU cores that we see topping our performance charts. Suffice it to say, there are very high-profile engineers of this caliber that these kind of companies will so openly court and/or attempt to pull away from the competition.

For those keeping count, this also marks the second high-profile architect from AMD to end up at Intel in the last 6 months. Towards the end of last year Intel picked up Raja Koduri to serve as their chief architect leading up their discrete GPU development efforts, and now Jim Keller is joining in a similar capacity (and identical SVP title) for Intel’s silicon engineering. Coincidentally, both Kodrui and Keller also worked at Apple for a time before moving to AMD, so while they haven’t been on identical paths – or even working on the same products – Keller’s move to Intel isn’t wholly surprising considering the two never seem to be apart for too long. So it will be exciting to see what Intel is doing with their engineering acquisitions over the coming years.

Source: Intel

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  • alphasquadron - Thursday, April 26, 2018 - link

    These people being at such a high level in their companies, don't they know specific trade secrets of their previous companies that could be used in the new company for efficiency gains? Do they just block that out of their head when thinking of designing a new processor? Reply
  • casperes1996 - Thursday, April 26, 2018 - link

    That's why this is California! They have relatively loose rules on all this. He can't explicitly implement ideas from competing products, but he can use general concepts for inspiration Reply
  • mode_13h - Friday, April 27, 2018 - link

    I think the idea is that AMD patents all of his ideas they use and discuss. Then, he can't just go and use those same ideas at Intel, because Intel will try to patent them and discover that they're already patented.

    Being a top performer, he can't afford to hold back any applicable ideas from his current project, because he's got a reputation to protect. Zen wouldn't be what it is if everyone didn't bring their A game.
    Reply
  • jjj - Thursday, April 26, 2018 - link

    The other very interesting bit is that if he left Tesla, he was likely done with his part and Tesla should have its own silicon in a not too distant future.

    There were also some rumors about Tesla working with AMD but , AMD or not, Tesla having its own silicon is gonna be way interesting as Tesla is maybe the most focused on machine vision. They are aiming much higher than others in this area as they don't want to count too much on other sensors.
    Reply
  • mode_13h - Friday, April 27, 2018 - link

    Nvidia's Drive.PX platform does bring a lot of firepower. I doubt we'll ever hear how it compares to Tesla's own solution, but I'd be surprised if it wasn't more powerful (not to mention more power-hungry). Reply
  • jjj - Thursday, April 26, 2018 - link

    Intel in their Q1 results press release confirms the extra extra 10nm delay.
    " Intel is currently shipping low-volume 10 nm product and now expects 10 nm volume production to shift to 2019 "
    Reply
  • BillBear - Thursday, April 26, 2018 - link

    Some people deserve the description "Rock Star" in their chosen profession. Reply
  • mode_13h - Friday, April 27, 2018 - link

    I do like the idea of a "rock star" engineer, as opposed to always focusing on the entrepreneurs heading up these companies and some high-profile venture capitalists. Reply
  • RaduR - Thursday, April 26, 2018 - link

    I am sure this kind of person doesn't do it just for the money, but for being able to do whatever he thinks is challenging.
    I'm sure anybody would have payed him more than AMD. Even Intel would have been smart to prevent him going there, by offering something to do for more Money.

    I's sure that Intel came up with something far more interesting than AMD & Tesla and that's the thing to watch. What's that would be a bigger news !
    Reply
  • Kvaern1 - Thursday, April 26, 2018 - link

    2023 will be a good year for Intel. Reply

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