AMD Bulldozer Chief Architect Fired

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AMD Bulldozer Chief Architect Fired

Postposted on Mon Dec 24, 2012 10:38 pm

Not sure if this has already been reported here at TR, but Mike Butler, Chief Architect of the Bulldozer architecture, apparently doesn't work for AMD anymore. Below are the relevant links.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=koepHTdw7ZE

http://www.linkedin.com/pub/mike-butler/33/bb6/49

I respect this guy. I mean, Bulldozer wasn't the Sandy Bridge killer we were all hoping it would be, but Bulldozer is nonetheless an extremely sophisticated, state-of-the-art piece of silicon that few in the industry will be able to pull off. I think Mike is a top-notch engineer that got sacked undeservedly. AMD seems to be letting go of people recklessly.
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Re: AMD Bulldozer Chief Architect Fired

Postposted on Mon Dec 24, 2012 11:02 pm

Did you read something somewhere that indicates he was fired? Or is it possible that he quit?
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Re: AMD Bulldozer Chief Architect Fired

Postposted on Mon Dec 24, 2012 11:30 pm

Given that he's now at Samsung it sounds more like he jumped ship. I was talking with a friend from Intel's server group over the weekend and it seems the general chatter is that they are increasingly discounting any future competition from AMD/x86, while anticipating strong competition from ARM and Samsung.

If anything, it looks like the famous DEC/AMD situation is going to repeat with AMD/Samsung: the primary product, while technically brilliant, fails to maintain momentum in the marketplace and the company crashes and burns. A better-positioned company from a related-but-different market scoops up the choice bits of the wreckage and takes the IP in a new direction.
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Re: AMD Bulldozer Chief Architect Fired

Postposted on Mon Dec 24, 2012 11:53 pm

@JBI - Hmm, perhaps the heading of this thread is too strong/conclusive. No, I didn't read any article about it. I just happened to check LinkedIn and saw this. Either way (fired or quit), the thing is, Mike is no longer at AMD. If there's anyone who knows Bulldozer like the back of his hand, it's Mike. And if AMD is gonna tweak the design and squeeze every bit of juice out of it, they're gonna need Mike.
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Re: AMD Bulldozer Chief Architect Fired

Postposted on Tue Dec 25, 2012 12:39 am

True. I wonder how far along the Steamroller/Excavator are. The real question is, will his departure deep-six AMD's future x86 cores, or is he gone because he (or AMD's board) concluded that future x86 cores just ain't gonna happen? Either way, it doesn't bode well.
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Re: AMD Bulldozer Chief Architect Fired

Postposted on Tue Dec 25, 2012 12:47 am

Didn't they just re-hire someone who was the big brain behind the K8? Not to say it's going to be a magic fix, but maybe not as dire as some in this thread are getting.
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Re: AMD Bulldozer Chief Architect Fired

Postposted on Tue Dec 25, 2012 12:55 am

derFunkenstein wrote:Didn't they just re-hire someone who was the big brain behind the K8? Not to say it's going to be a magic fix, but maybe not as dire as some in this thread are getting.

Hadn't heard that. If so, then they may be OK from an engineering talent POV given that K8 was really their breakout product which allowed them to pull ahead of Intel for a while.

What a frikkin' soap opera...
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Re: AMD Bulldozer Chief Architect Fired

Postposted on Tue Dec 25, 2012 1:27 am

derFunkenstein wrote:Didn't they just re-hire someone who was the big brain behind the K8? Not to say it's going to be a magic fix, but maybe not as dire as some in this thread are getting.


I think you're talking about Jim Keller.

http://techreport.com/news/23346/amd-lu ... from-apple
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Re: AMD Bulldozer Chief Architect Fired

Postposted on Tue Dec 25, 2012 1:40 am

They've lost far more people than the one they got back. Bobcat's architect as well, and that design was actually good.
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Re: AMD Bulldozer Chief Architect Fired

Postposted on Tue Dec 25, 2012 1:49 am

ronch wrote:If there's anyone who knows Bulldozer like the back of his hand, it's Mike. And if AMD is gonna tweak the design and squeeze every bit of juice out of it, they're gonna need Mike.


There's plenty of people behind Mike that know BD pretty much as well (if not better); these are the people who actually implemented the thing.

Losing team leadership (which is pretty hard to find in engineering) certainly hurts, but it's not the end of the world
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Re: AMD Bulldozer Chief Architect Fired

Postposted on Tue Dec 25, 2012 2:02 am

It's hard to know where to place the blame for Bulldozer's shortcomings. The imbalanced decoder, tiny L1, and other compromises might have been mandated by committee, rather than chosen by any one person. If Butler was indeed pushed, making him the scapegoat may (or may not!) be decidedly unjustifiable.

At any rate, I feel that AMD is just circling the drain. Their x86 license is the ONE big advantage they hold over Samsung, ARM, NVidia, and all the other big dogs in the yard. IMO, big x86 cores still matter, and the company's only long-term hope was to redouble their Piledriver based desktop/server/APU chip efforts. Since this clearly ain't gonna happen, it seems just a matter of time before the whole company implodes...
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Re: AMD Bulldozer Chief Architect Fired

Postposted on Tue Dec 25, 2012 5:32 am

Yeah, that pretty much mirrors my thoughts. Still too early to run the obit, but their CPU business appears to be on life support and only a miracle can save it now. If that miracle doesn't materialize, they're toast. All of my DIY builds have been AMD-based since the K6 days; and as I've noted before, my very first PC (way back in the late 1970s) used AMD's clone of Intel's 8-bit 8080A.

Kinda weird to think that my current Piledriver-based system might be my last AMD-based desktop PC!
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Re: AMD Bulldozer Chief Architect Fired

Postposted on Tue Dec 25, 2012 6:44 am

Same here, I've used AMD/ATI exclusively since the original Athlon days. The latest build I did was Intel/Nvidia, and it felt like saying goodbye to an old friend.
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Re: AMD Bulldozer Chief Architect Fired

Postposted on Tue Dec 25, 2012 7:15 am

Bulldozer would wiped the floor with Yorkfield or Wolfdale processors, but AMD's slow execution and process handicap was crippling. Bulldozer was close to six years in the making, and at least two years too late to be relevant.

Everyone expected a new AMD product to compete with Nahelem, but they re-spun Phenoms for two extra years - blaming GloFo's 45nm process and then Dirk Meyer's rethink on the architectural direction of the new product. The Phenom/PhenomII Stars-cored products were AMD's somewhat underwhelming response to the Core2 architecture and it was clear that a new direction (or at least major IPC tweak) was already overdue at this point.

Nahelem is the level that AMD are currently at with Piledriver. It can compete with the more advanced Sandy Bridge architecture only because of it's ridiculous size, clockspeed and power consumption. With a 30% clockspeed advantage and guzzling almost three times the power, it competes with a mid-range 65W intel chip (that's 65W including an IGP that uses about 25% of the die area) from 18 months ago. This is unfortunate because that puts a fairly precise marker on how far behind Intel AMD really are, which in this industry is a terminal disadvantage.

If AMD didn't have ATI's GPU products propping up their company, they'd have sunk sometime last year. I'm still amazed they're standing with the debts they have in the current economic climate.

The E-350 was a great product, I hope they don't squander/neglect that market segment (though it sure looks like they are doing exactly that) and the APU's have their niche but it's been seven years since I bought an AMD CPU for myself and I always buy the best product for my needs.
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Re: AMD Bulldozer Chief Architect Fired

Postposted on Tue Dec 25, 2012 9:26 am

Jim Keller's return to AMD doesn't exactly fill me with hope. He stayed at AMD for what, just a year, more or less, when they defined the K8 architecture. I still believe K8's biggest performance enhancing feature was its IMC, and it wasn't really hard to imagine that the next logical step (and low-hanging fruit) in enhancing performance was to integrate the memory controller on-die. More, wider registers also helped, but again, it's all just about extending the registers from 32- to 64-bit. Lastly, there's HyperTransport (aka Lightning Data Transport during its development), which was certainly no small feat back in 2003. I'm not saying Jim isn't a stellar engineer, because I'm sure (and hoping) he is, but as Game_boy pointed out, they've already lost so many heads. Perhaps those heads aren't worth keeping around and Jim is the big kahuna that will propel AMD back to glory. Only time will tell.

Honestly, I don't know what all the fuss about Bulldozer is about. I just bought an FX-8350-based PC and it performs well enough and certainly moves things forward for desktop computing. I'm certain it''ll be a beast of a PC for 99% of folks out there. Of course, in this industry, benchmarks are everything, and when you fall short of your competition, you price lower. This, at least, has allowed me to purchase this PC, which is in fact, a very powerful and sophisticated computer, for a reasonable price. Core i7-class aggregate performance for a lot less money. AMD has a solid piece of technology right here, but users are crying foul, and AMD's head is on the chopping block, along with the engineers who designed FX, which includes Mike Butler.
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Re: AMD Bulldozer Chief Architect Fired

Postposted on Tue Dec 25, 2012 10:10 am

ronch wrote:Honestly, I don't know what all the fuss about Bulldozer is about. I just bought an FX-8350-based PC and it performs well enough and certainly moves things forward for desktop computing. I'm certain it''ll be a beast of a PC for 99% of folks out there.


If you thought about it harder I think the realization would dawn on you. You're an end user, and when an end user thinks only of the end user's context, then the failures of a product are often not going to be recognized. Also, you're on a Piledriver, which is an improved version of Bulldozer. But let's cover some things:


1. Sandy Bridge, including IGP, is smaller than Bulldozer/Piledriver. Ivy Bridge is even smaller still.
2. An i3 2120 or thereabouts is as fast as the FX-8150 in most "typical" workloads - gaming, general productivity, etc. That's just awful. BD looks great on heavily multithreaded apps, but those aren't the most common/typical workloads. Enthusiasts will often rebut this with anecdotes of their own personal computer usage, but that's irrelevant.
3. Sandy/Ivy have VASTLY lower power consumption. Piledriver helped mitigate this a little, but really not all that much. This matters BIG TIME to OEMs who have to build thousands and thousands of computers and who are looking to save money wherever possible - that means power supplies, motherboard power circuitry, adequate cooling of the CPU and the entire computer.
4. At similar price points (especially for OEMs), all of AMD's chips were/are getting outclassed except at the very lowest price points.

So it's not that Bulldozer/Piledriver are horrible products for the end user (not saying they're all that good either), but they're pretty bad products for OEMs and system builders to work with, and they're even kinda painful for AMD to manufacture (low performance per mm^2 which translates to low price per mm^2 on sales); AMD's margins have suffered in epic fashion since BD launched. As far as being in business and staying in business goes, Bulldozer is a tsunami of hardship.
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Re: AMD Bulldozer Chief Architect Fired

Postposted on Wed Dec 26, 2012 9:35 pm

None of us want to say that it's over for AMD- but the writing *is* on the walls. They've been behind, essentially, since Intel reworked the Pentium III into the Core and then Core 2, and I've been on Intel that long. At the performance envelopes I've targeted Intel has been the better buy every time, and Intel has pulled further ahead with each coming generation.

Intel bet wrong with Netburst, and it left them behind on desktop performance while completely uncompetitive in the mobile space. At this point, I'd almost welcome a takeover from Samsung, who can actually stand largely toe-to-toe with Intel. If Samsung could get their hands on an x86 license, they might be able to keep Intel in check.
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Re: AMD Bulldozer Chief Architect Fired

Postposted on Thu Dec 27, 2012 11:27 am

How could AMD possibly get out of their mess? It just seems impossible. Your opponent is unscathed, strong, and standing up proudly, while you lie down on the ground, flesh torn, bones broken, and blood pouring out like water from a broken pipe. Don't get me wrong, I just bought my FX-8350 last week and I'm extremely happy with it, but it may well be my last AMD processor. I really hope AMD can get back on their feet but unless ATIC throws them a pretty penny every time they're about to cross the thin line between life and death, I just don't see any ray of hope. I don't think Rory has the chops to pull it off either.
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Re: AMD Bulldozer Chief Architect Fired

Postposted on Mon Jan 07, 2013 2:37 am

If AMD is to survive it needs to create a native quad core 3.x GHz x86 APU that's very cheap and power efficient with graphics comparable to a last-generation midrange GPU like the 6670. This will require rethinking how they operate as a chip company. Going forward, having uber specs doesn't really matter but if they have a "good enough" chip it'll be very popular with people who need a basic desktop for doing stuff. Right now AMD is losing on every front; lower performance, less efficient, higher power use, and cost--traditionally the Green Machine's strong suit--is a wash given that Intel has been selling Sandy Bridge for dirt cheap.

I'm traditionally an AMD guy but last year I got a 2500K because it was just too good a deal to pass up. I had upgraded from a 7750BE and wondering if I should pick up a Phenom II to play around with while there's still time, in case I never get another chance...
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Re: AMD Bulldozer Chief Architect Fired

Postposted on Mon Jan 07, 2013 6:37 am

ronch wrote:Jim Keller's return to AMD doesn't exactly fill me with hope. He stayed at AMD for what, just a year, more or less, when they defined the K8 architecture. I still believe K8's biggest performance enhancing feature was its IMC, and it wasn't really hard to imagine that the next logical step (and low-hanging fruit) in enhancing performance was to integrate the memory controller on-die. More, wider registers also helped, but again, it's all just about extending the registers from 32- to 64-bit. Lastly, there's HyperTransport (aka Lightning Data Transport during its development), which was certainly no small feat back in 2003. I'm not saying Jim isn't a stellar engineer, because I'm sure (and hoping) he is, but as Game_boy pointed out, they've already lost so many heads. Perhaps those heads aren't worth keeping around and Jim is the big kahuna that will propel AMD back to glory. Only time will tell.


DEC did an IMC with their Alpha 21364 (1998) way before AMD K8 (2003).
Actually, a lot of AMD's "revolutionary" techonologies found in the K7 and K8 come from DEC. Jerry Sanders was really smart in bringing over technology and people like Dirk Meyer over just as DEC's processor business was winding down.
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Re: AMD Bulldozer Chief Architect Fired

Postposted on Mon Jan 07, 2013 10:37 am

jihadjoe wrote:DEC did an IMC with their Alpha 21364 (1998) way before AMD K8 (2003).
Actually, a lot of AMD's "revolutionary" techonologies found in the K7 and K8 come from DEC. Jerry Sanders was really smart in bringing over technology and people like Dirk Meyer over just as DEC's processor business was winding down.

Indeed.

The front-side bus used by the original Athlon was even borrowed directly from the DEC Alpha. The bus protocol was known as "EV6", which stood for "Extended VAX, version 6". IIRC some of the early Irongate-based Athlon motherboards could even run Alpha CPUs if an Alpha-compatible BIOS was pre-installed (which would mean they also borrowed the pinout of the Slot A CPU cartridge).
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Re: AMD Bulldozer Chief Architect Fired

Postposted on Mon Jan 07, 2013 11:19 am

jihadjoe wrote:Actually, a lot of AMD's "revolutionary" techonologies found in the K7 and K8 come from DEC. Jerry Sanders was really smart in bringing over technology and people like Dirk Meyer over just as DEC's processor business was winding down.

This is exactly what I think Samsung is going to do with the remnants of AMD.
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Re: AMD Bulldozer Chief Architect Fired

Postposted on Mon Jan 07, 2013 2:14 pm

ludi wrote:
jihadjoe wrote:Actually, a lot of AMD's "revolutionary" techonologies found in the K7 and K8 come from DEC. Jerry Sanders was really smart in bringing over technology and people like Dirk Meyer over just as DEC's processor business was winding down.

This is exactly what I think Samsung is going to do with the remnants of AMD.


Well, if Samsung inherit AMD cache design, memory controller and branch prediction "know how", Intel got absolutely nothing to worry about.
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