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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  • bug77 - Monday, June 15, 2020 - link

    Keep in mind before Intel he only needed two years at Tesla. Before that, he produced Zen for AMD in just three years. Thus, besides the "personal reasons", there's a good chance he was able to deliver (or at least set the course) for at least one product.
  • YB1064 - Saturday, June 13, 2020 - link

    I wonder how the HardOCP guy is doing at Intel? Butting heads was his specialty.
  • bug77 - Sunday, June 14, 2020 - link

    Not well, I'm afraid:
  • drexnx - Thursday, June 11, 2020 - link

    I guess his work is done and Rocket Lake/Willow Cove will be Sandy Bridge levels of good, or the ship couldn't be turned around after all
  • trparky - Thursday, June 11, 2020 - link

    I have a feeling that he butted heads with too many people at Intel and wasn't able to do the work that he needed to do. Intel does have a very arrogant attitude that they're the best at everything for no good reason. Perhaps he was unwilling to drink the Intel Kool-Aid.
  • realneil - Thursday, June 11, 2020 - link

    This sounds about right.
  • Hifihedgehog - Thursday, June 11, 2020 - link

    Here’s why I feel he did: he probably couldn’t get results he wanted having to always fight tooth and nail with the bureaucratic monstrosity Intel has become. Honestly, I am surprised he lasted as long as he did because I personally know of employees who have left because of the sluggard of a rotting corporation it has become.
  • FullmetalTitan - Thursday, June 11, 2020 - link

    I work with just such a previous employee. His prediction was that unless they rebuilt the management teams and their whole culture, no fixer was going to be able to right the ship that is Intel.
  • watzupken - Thursday, June 11, 2020 - link

    I agree. Unlike in AMD, Intel may not be as easy to navigate and manage.
  • Gondalf - Friday, June 12, 2020 - link

    My bet he have realized the lead in cpu development is right now in the large hands of Haifa Team. Honestly at Haifa there are more talented cpu engineers than Keller, so he had only a job of coordination.
    Done its job he have resigned. He have not a future in Intel.

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