Intel has just published a news release on its website stating that Jim Keller has resigned from the company, effective immediately, due to personal reasons.

Jim Keller was hired by Intel two years ago to the role as Senior Vice President of Intel’s Silicon Engineering Group, after a string of successes at Tesla, AMD, Apple, AMD (again), and PA Semiconductor. As far as we understand, Jim’s goal inside Intel was to streamline a lot of the product development process on the silicon side, as well as providing strategic platforms though which future products can be developed and optimized to market. We also believe that Jim Keller has had a hand in looking at Intel’s manufacturing processes, as well as a number of future products.

Intel’s press release today states that Jim Keller is leaving the position on June 11th due to personal reasons. However, he will remain with the company as a consultant for six months in order to assist with the transition.

As a result of Jim’s departure, Intel has realigned some of its working groups internally with a series of promotions.

  1. Sundari Mitra, the former CEO and founder of Net Speed, will lead a newly created IP Engineering Group.
  2. Gloria Leong will head the Xeon Performance Group
  3. Gene Scuteri will head the Xeon and Networking Engineering Group
  4. Uri Frank and Boyd Phelps will lead the Client Engineering Group
  5. Daaman Hejmadi will lead the Design Enablement Group
  6. Navid Shahriari will continue to lead the Manufacturing and Product Engineering Group

Jim Keller’s history in the industry has been well documented – his work has had a significant effect in a number of areas that have propelled the industry forward. This includes work on Apple’s A4 and A5 processors, AMD’s K8 and Zen high-level designs, as well as Tesla’s custom silicon for self driving, which Tesla’s own competitors have said put the company up to seven years ahead.

With our interview with Jim Keller, several weeks after taking the job at Intel, we learned that Keller went in to the company with a spanner. Keller has repeatedly said that he’s a fixer, more than a visionary, and Intel would allow him to effect change at a larger scale than he had ever done previously.

From our interview:

JK: I like the whole pipeline, like, I've been talking to people about how do our bring up labs and power performance characterization work, such as how does our SoC and integration and verification work? I like examining the whole stack. We're doing an evaluation on how long it takes to get a new design into emulation, what the quality metrics are, so yeah I'm all over the place.

We just had an AI summit where all the leaders for AI were there, we have quite a few projects going on there, I mean Intel's a major player in AI already, like virtually every software stack runs on Xeon and we have quite a few projects going on. There's the advanced development stuff, there's nuts and bolts execution, there's process and methodology bring up. Yeah I have a fairly broad experience in the computer business. I'm a ‘no stone unturned’ technical kind of person – when we were in Haifa and I was bugging an engineer about the cleanliness of the fixture where the surface mount packages plug into the test boards.

Jim’s history has shown that he likes to spend a few years at a company and move on to different sorts of challenges. His two year stint at Intel has been one of his shortest tenures, and even recently Fortune published a deep expose on Jim, stating that ‘Intel is betting its chips on microprocessor mastermind Jim Keller’. So the fact that he is leaving relatively early based on his previous roles is somewhat different.

Intel’s press release on the matter suggests that this has been known about for enough time to rearrange some of the working groups around to cover Jim’s role. Jim will be serving at Intel for at least another six months it seems, in the role of a consultant, so it might be that long before he lands another spot in the industry.

It should be noted that Jim Keller is still listed to give one of the keynote addresses at this year’s Hot Chips conference on behalf on Intel. We will update this story if that changes.

This news item was updated on 17th June with information regarding the new rearrangement. Points 2 and 4 were added, while (the new) 5 was adjusted.

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  • jaker788 - Thursday, June 11, 2020 - link

    He was there as leadership to help organize the engineering team more than being THE architect. I'm assuming he couldn't run things the way he wanted and maybe some high level architectural decisions were not welcome by non engineer corporate leadership. Reply
  • yeeeeman - Friday, June 12, 2020 - link

    Ocean Cove. Golden Cove is Alder Lake and Intel already has prototypes for it in the labs. Reply
  • Kevin G - Thursday, June 11, 2020 - link

    I don't think that that will show his greatest influence. Willow Core was effectively done when he arrived. Rocket Lake, being a 14 nm backport, he could have influenced but that was clearly a plan B due to a massive hole in the desktop market, something you don't distract your A team with. Rather it'll be the parts next year and in 2022 that'll be a show case for his performance. Reply
  • Deicidium369 - Thursday, June 11, 2020 - link

    Cove not core. Rocket Lake has been on the slides for ages - unamed then, the last 14nm based on next gen arch. Reply
  • Truthy - Thursday, June 11, 2020 - link

    The ship could not be turned around. Sounds like he decided to cut his losses. It's difficult trying to reform a system much in need of reform when the folks in that system try to thwart your efforts. Reply
  • name99 - Thursday, June 11, 2020 - link

    Certainly looks that way to me.

    Let's see if those "personal reasons" prevent him from popping up at some other company (NUVIA seems a good bet...) in a few months...
    Reply
  • Santoval - Thursday, June 11, 2020 - link

    When he joined Intel Willow Cove's design was almost certainly "locked" already. Perhaps he had some input in Rocket Lake, more input in Golden Cove, but apparently his greatest focus was meant to be on Ocean Cove (the core of what's currently known as Meteor Lake), Golden Cove's successor.

    I recall that Ocean Cove was pre-pre-announced just a few weeks after he joined Intel as a "clean sheet" design, and Jim Keller was to lead its design. Perhaps its design is done or almost done already, but it will take a while before Intel has engineering samples and it taped out. On top of a brand new design (as "brand new" as can be done nowadays) Meteor Lake is going to be the first Intel CPU series fabbed on their 7nm node, which will employ EUV extensively.

    Meteor Lake should also have quite a beefy (Gen14) iGPU, which will be fed by DDR5 and LPDDR5. Release date? Q1 2023 at the absolute earliest, Q4 2022 if a miracle occurs.
    Reply
  • jaker788 - Thursday, June 11, 2020 - link

    Clean slate architectures takes years to make. Zen took from about 2011 to 2016 tape out. Development time only takes longer as process nodes shrink and the amount of transistors you have to work with. Reply
  • yeeeeman - Friday, June 12, 2020 - link

    Intel has had 5 years of break to create this miracle architecture. They most probably were in the middle of it in 2018 when they hired Keller to give his input on the matter. Currently Ocean Cove must be in design/verification phase. Reply
  • FunBunny2 - Friday, June 12, 2020 - link

    given that most of those transistors have gone to building caches/buffers and the like rather than new logic, it's difficult to see why tape out should be taking longer. at least from an arch point of view. to the extent that multi-core communication demands new designs, that too ought to be a solved problem. Reply

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