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Legendary Chip Architect Jim Keller Says AMD ‘Stupidly Canceled’ K12 ARM Processor Project After Leaving Company

Legendary chip architect Jim Keller told a conference that his K12 ARM processor project was “stupidly canceled” after he left his former employer, AMD.

Ex-AMD Chip Architect Jim Keller Says He Worked On Zen 1, Zen 2, Zen 3 But K12 ARM CPU Was Canceled By Former Employer

The “Future of Compute” conference was organized by the Department of Computing and Automation, Indian Institute of Science, where Jim Keller gave a brief overview of the various projects he has worked on and the fundamentals of computing. chip design.

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Jim states that while he was at AMD he worked on Zen 1 and laid out the plans to do Zen 2 and Zen 3 which means Zen 3 could probably be the last Jim Keller design we got from him as the latest Zen 4 and Zen 5 projects could be designed in-house by a new team at AMD. While at AMD, Jim and his team noticed that the cache design for ARM and x86 processors was essentially the same, among other things such as the execution unit and the only difference between the two processor architectures was the decoding unit, so they decided to work on a new chip, known as K12, which was later canceled by AMD.

It is revealed by Jim Keller that the K12 ARM CPU project was actually canceled after he left the company by some managers. As he says most managers are afraid of changing things but because he was an architect himself he is not afraid of changes like this and the work he did during his time at AMD was “fun”.

As for what AMD’s K12 was going to be, the ARMv8-A-based processor was designed to launch alongside Project Zen and was to focus on high-frequency, power-efficient environments, aiming for the dense server , integrated and semi-customized market segments. AMD has since brought in various semi-custom server chips based on the Zen core architecture and they are entering the dense compute segment with their new Zen 4C architecture next year which will debut on the EPYC Bergamo platform. AMD’s integrated chips also use Zen silicon, so it looks like AMD has a really different plan to use Zen for all of its computing needs rather than relying on a separate ARM-focused architecture.

“But I’ll tell you from my point of view, when you look at compute solutions, whether it’s x86 or ARM or even other areas, that’s an area where we focus on investment,” AMD CFO Devinder Kumar responded to a question about the company’s view on competing Arm chips. “We know compute very well. Even ARM, as you mentioned, we have a very good relationship with ARM. And we understand that our customers want to work with us with this particular product to provide the solutions. go ahead and do this even if it’s not x86, even if we think x86 is a dominant force in this area.”

through AMD

That said, AMD CFO Devinder Kumar has already said he is ready to manufacture ARM chips if there is a need and demand for them. AMD is also entering the semi-custom arena where they plan to use third-party chips in the near future, so this is also something that could use ARM chips, but it won’t be an all-in-house design that AMD was doing with K12 when Jim was around. Jim also joined Intel in 2018 and left in 2020 after working on various chip projects and is currently the interim CTO at Tenstorrent.

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