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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  • Nictron - Saturday, June 13, 2020 - link

    Good luck to him and hope the personal matters are not too serious.

    From my perspective Intel does not have a design or performance issue but a issue of manufacturing and security.

    Manufacturing could be a shareholder issue as they are not willing to invest in the capital expenditure to move to lower nm fabs as they “feel” they still have the performance advantage. It could be a “ego” thing where they just do not see the need to invest.

    Another advantage Intel has is in the business enterprise space where their Microsoft partnership is benefitting them a lot. It is really expensive to by software especially database software for AMD. Their core count actually counts against them and per core performance is better in that space which makes it more economical to go Intel, however the power efficiency lag is starting to catch up with Intel.

    The other area of concern for Intel is the security space as they just seem to be hit with issue after issue as we go along with not end in sight. Their predictive performance algorithms that gives them that IPC advantage seems to be prone to security exploits and this could be causing some serious conflicts inside Intel. Address the security and loose IPC performance crown?

    From my perspective AMD is smoking at the moment. If Intel can however address their fab and security soon they will stay on top for the future.
  • stockolicious - Saturday, June 13, 2020 - link

    The AMD / INTC dynamic is different this time as INTC doesn't control or dominate in MFG. INTC has historically just killed AMD due to their MFG scale and performance. If AMD had a good design INTC would create design and improve MFG process well ahead. AMD was right to spin off Glofo and now they could be competitive or more in the next 10 years so I don't think INTC will just come back and dominate like before. I see a more evenly distributed market as the next few years unfold.
  • PandaBear - Wednesday, June 17, 2020 - link

    The problem is, AMD share the lower nm cost with Apple, Qualcomm, and others while Intel is doing it all by themselves. There is a different economy of scale and AMD is now able to hitch hike with Apple and Qualcomm to beat Intel. This is new and has never really happened before, when foundry was always behind Intel for one or two generation. Now Apple and Qualcomm will pay for this due to power consumption reason rather than cost performance reason.

    Intel didn't have the wireless dominance to justify the lower nm cost, so they are now losing the edge to AMD. If you think AMD catching up is bad, wait till Apple starts switching their mac to their own CPU on ARM, that could really get Intel out of consumer space over time, starting with chrome book then gradually to gaming laptop.
  • joejohnson293 - Friday, July 17, 2020 - link

    Intel has had an exodus of talent in the last 1 or 2 years, The CEO needs to sell off its fabs and manufacturing unit to the highest bidder (Gloflo or Samsung?) ASAP and buy one of ARM/Nvidia/AMD/Qualcomm with the proceeds for Intel to stay relevant.
  • FPGAs4Life - Tuesday, July 28, 2020 - link

    Does anyone have any predictions on where Jim Keller might end up post Intel or has anyone heard any rumors on the topic?
  • alumine - Wednesday, July 29, 2020 - link

    It'd be a big kick in the guts for Intel if he moved to Apple to do their new silicon....

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