AMD lures K8 architect Jim Keller away from Apple

It's no secret AMD has been struggling to repeat the success of its K7 and K8 architectures. Bulldozer was underwhelming, to say the least, and it looks like Piledriver—Bulldozer's successor—still doesn't have what it takes to match Intel's best.

Luckily, AMD has brought back a key player from its glory days. Jim Keller, who was lead architect on the K8 and co-author of the x86-64 specification, will be rejoining the chipmaker as Corporate Vice President and Chief Architect for CPU Cores. Keller will be reporting directly to AMD's Chief Technology Officer, Mark Papermaster.

Keller has an impressive resume. In the 80s and 90s, he worked at DEC, where he co-architected the Alpha 21164 and Alpha 21264 processors. He only worked at AMD between 1998 and 1999, but he definitely left his mark on the company. In addition to his aforementioned roles on the K8 and the x86-64 spec, Keller co-authored the Hyper-Transport specification and was part of the system engineering team behind the K7. (The K7 architecture debuted in the Athlon processor, while the K8 powered AMD's Athlon 64 and Athlon 64 X2 chips.)

In 2000, Keller joined Broadcom and was the chief architect on a line of MIPS-based network processors. In 2004, he moved on to PA Semiconductor, where he led a team that developed a networking system-on-a-chip with an integrated PowerPC processor. When PA Semiconductor was acquired by Apple in April 2008, Keller followed. He worked as part of the small team that architected Apple's A4 and A5 processors, which have powered the last few generations of iDevices. Keller also mingled with Apple's Mac group, working on the system specification for a couple generations of MacBook Air laptops.

Keller is the second high-profile executive to join AMD after a tenure at Apple. Mark Papermaster served as Apple's Senior VP of Devices Hardware Engineering between 2008 and 2010, but he left the company in the wake of the iPhone 4 antenna fiasco. Keller and Papermaster presumably worked together at Apple.

Here's hoping Keller will help AMD come up with a winning high-performance CPU architecture once again. Considering how long chip design cycles tend to be, though, we may not see the result of his contributions for another three or four years or so.

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