AMD Ryzen processors are currently beyond doubt, being very good quality chips. During a conference, Jim Keller has talked about the K12 ARM project, AMD processors based on the ARM architecture. He has highlighted that AMD canceled the project “stupidly” after Keller himself left the company.
It is possible that the name of Jim Keller don’t tell you much right now. To put it in context, it’s the father of zen architecture 1in addition to laying the foundations for Zen 2 and Zen 3. After leaving AMD, I worked for a couple of years at Intel, being one of the architects of the design of power and efficiency cores of the current Core Alder Lake.
Keller charges against AMD’s decision to cancel ARM processors
During a talk called “Future of Compute” organized by the Department of Computer Science and Automation of the Instituto Indicio de Ciencias, he talked about the different projects he has worked on. Keller He has talked about the projects he has worked on and the fundamentals of chip design.
While at AMD, Keller helped develop the Zen 1 architecture.. Furthermore, Keller laid the foundation for the Zen 2 and Zen 3 architectures. After the current Zen 3 architecture (Ryzen 5000), the Zen 4 and Zen 5 designs will no longer be based on Keller’s ideas, so to speak.
Jim notes that while working at AMD, he and his team they noticed that the cache layout between ARM and x86 CPUs were pretty much the same. They found that the execution unit was practically the same. They found that the only difference between the two architectures was in the decoding unit.
Given this discovery, they decided to work on the development of a new chip. This new project was named as K12, but the project was cancelled. According to Keller, the ARM K12 processor was canceled after he and other managers left the company.
Not only this, he says that managers are often afraid of change. He points out that since he was an architect (of processors) he was not afraid of changes, like this one. Furthermore, Keller says that the work done during his time at AMD was “fun”
The K12 chip was based on ARMv8-A CPU and it was intended to launch in parallel with the Zen architecture. That chip was focused on high workload and high energy efficiency environments. Specifically, designed for high-density servers, embedded systems and semi-custom solutions.
Response from AMD
Unsurprisingly, AMD has responded to this information, as Keller is a major figure in the industry. Who made the comment is the financial director of AMD, Devinder Kumar. He comments the following:
But I’ll tell you from my point of view, when you look at computing solutions, whether it’s x86 or ARM or even other areas, that’s an area that we focus on investment for us. We know how to 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 on that particular product to provide the solutions. We’re ready to go ahead and do it even if it’s not x86, even though we think x86 is a dominant force in that area.
Perhaps, and with all due respect, someone from the economic division is not the best person to respond to this comment. AMD has engineers who, at any given time, could be more precious. With this answer, it seems (at least from my point of view) that it was only canceled because it was not financially viable.