Legendary chip architect Jim Keller says AMD “foolishly canceled” the K12 ARM CPU project after leaving the company

Legendary chip architect Jim Keller said during a conference that his K12 ARM CPU project was “stupidly canceled” after he left his previous employer AMD.

AMD ex-chip architect Jim Keller says he worked on Zen 1, Zen 2, Zen 3 but the K12 ARM CPU was terminated by his former employer

The Future of Compute conference was held by the Indian Institute of Science’s Department of Computer Science and Automation, where Jim Keller gave a brief overview of the various projects he has worked on and the fundamentals of chip design.

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Jim explains that during his time at AMD he worked on Zen 1 and set the plans for Zen 2 and Zen 3, meaning Zen 3 could likely be the last Jim Keller design we see from him as the latest Zen 4 and Zen received 5 projects could be designed internally by a new team at AMD. During his time at AMD, Jim and his team found that the cache design for ARM and x86 CPUs was mostly the same, among other things, such as on a new chip, known to us as the K12, that was later dropped by AMD.

Jim Keller reveals that the K12 ARM CPU project was indeed canceled after he left the company by certain managers. As he puts it, most managers are afraid of changing things, but being an architect himself, he is not afraid of such changes and the work he has done during his time at AMD has been “fun”.

As for AMD’s K12, the ARMv8-A based CPU was designed to launch alongside the Zen project and was expected to focus on high frequency and power efficient environments and on dense ones Servers, embedded and semi-integrated servers. custom market segments. AMD has since launched various semi-custom server chips based on the Zen-Core architecture and is moving into the dense computing segment next year with its new Zen 4C architecture, which will debut on the EPYC Bergamo platform. AMD’s embedded chips also use Zen silicon, so it looks like AMD had a really different plan to use Zen for all its computing needs, rather than relying on a separate ARM-focused architecture.

“But I’ll tell you from my vantage point, if you look at compute solutions, whether it’s x86 or ARM or even other areas, that’s an area where we’re focused on investing for us,” AMD CFO Devinder Kumar responded to one Question about the company’s view of competing arm chips. “We know computers really well. Even ARM, as you mentioned, we have a very good relationship with ARM. And we understand that with that particular product, our customers want to work with us to deliver the solutions. We’re ready to move on and do so even though it’s not x86, although we believe x86 is a dominant strength in this space.”

via AMD

With that in mind, AMD’s CFO Devinder Kumar has previously stated that they are ready to make ARM chips if the need and demand arise. AMD is also entering the semi-custom arena, where it plans to use third-party chiplets in the near future, so this could also be something ARM chips could use, but that won’t be a fully internal design that AMD is using K12 made when Jim was around. Jim also joined Intel in 2018 and left the company in 2020 after working on various chip projects and is currently the acting CTO at Tenstorrent.