Published in PC Hardware

Zen man Jim Keller leaves Tesla for Intel

by on26 April 2018

Updated: Leaves Tesla to kick-start Chipzilla

Jim Keller, the former AMD chip executive behind the Zen roadmap, has left Tesla for Intel and joining fellow AMD refugee Raja Koduri to help Chipzilla sort out of its manufacturing stall of the last few years.

Our industry sources have confirmed that Jim Keller will join as an SVP his old chum Intel SVP Raja Koduri and will report to Dr Venkata (Murthy) Renduchintala. Koduri and Keller will work together.  Renduchintala reports directly to Intel, CEO Brian Krzanich and is a  Group President and Chief Engineering Officer. Murthy folds and unfolds the roadmap, so these appointments are at the highest level.

The way we understand it, Keller will be working on the hardware engineering part while Koduri will be working on the IP blocks. Raja will make the IP blocks for CPU and GU while Keller will make the SoC. When we say an SOC, he will develop the CPUs from Koduri's  IP blocks.

The new addition to Intel is an important step to overcome the years of issues with 10nm and further. One of the key Intel advantages over the last few decades was the fact that the company managed to get new manufacturing nods before its competitors.

Keller and Koduri were both at AMD and Apple before

Keller and Koduri worked together at AMD and Apple, and yes, Keller was one of the driving elements behind the Zen core and 40+ percent of IPC improvement. In other words, Keller with the help of Mike Clark Sr. Fellow Design Engineering making the actual Zen (Ryzen and Epyc product) was directly responsible for the rise of the Epyc / Ryzen.

At Apple, he was the critical driver of the SoC / CPU advancement, A- series that went into iPhones and iPads. Koduri was working on graphics at Apple while Keller was working on a SoC / CPU.

Intel is trying to get from 14nm to 10nm for the last four years, and with Koduri and Jim Keller, things might finally work out.

Tesla loses its crucial chip guy

This is also a big blow for Tesla. Elon Musk will miss the guy who was an essential element of the Tesla's self-driving chip. For Keller, this decision might be based on the fact that with Intel resources, he can impact many more lives.

Intel sells more than 230 million CPUs a year, and when you combine all its chips, you get numbers closer to a billion. As a passionate hardware engineer, this is where you want to work. Tesla might be a cool company, but even with a ramped up Tesla 3, you are still talking about 100,000s of cars, versus hundreds of millions of chips.

Keller can put his Artificial Intelligence (AI) talents in multiple Intel chips too. The next few chips to come from Chipzilla will be all about that. AI and Edge computing will become some of the most critical technologies and differentiators going forward.


Intel has now officially confirmed that Jim Keller will be joining the company as a senior vice president. 

“Jim is one of the most respected microarchitecture design visionaries in the industry, and the latest example of top technical talent to join Intel,” said Dr. Murthy Renduchintala, Intel’s chief engineering officer and group president of the Technology, Systems Architecture & Client Group (TSCG). “We have embarked on exciting initiatives to fundamentally change the way we build the silicon as we enter the world of heterogeneous process and architectures. Jim joining us will help accelerate this transformation.”

“I had a great experience working at Tesla, learned a lot, and look forward to all the great technology coming from Tesla in the future. My lifelong passion has been developing the world’s best silicon products,” Keller said. “The world will be a very different place in the next decade as a result of where computing is headed. I am excited to join the Intel team to build the future of CPUs, GPUs, accelerators and other products for the data-centric computing era.”

Intel added that Keller will officially start in his new role at Intel on April 30.

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Last modified on 26 April 2018
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