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2002: Jerry Sanders Appoints Hector Ruiz onto CEO Role

Advanced Micro Devices had a number of incredibly important events throughout its long history: conversion from the maker of RAM and basic logic chips into a maker of x86 microprocessors, merging with ATI Technologies and so on. But one of the less-noted transitions was appointment of Hector Ruiz onto the chief executive position at the company in 2002.

Hector Ruiz worked at Texas Instruments for six years and Motorola for 22 years, after which he was hired by Jerry Sanders to become AMD's president and chief operating officer in 2000 and eventually succeed him as chief executive officer and chairman at the world’s second largest maker of x86 microprocessors. Mr. Ruiz was supposed to bring stability, consistency and great execution to AMD, goals that were partly achieved. AMD is not an underdog CPU supplier now, but a rather competitive player on the market. Unfortunately, Hector Ruiz himself was ousted from the company after a series of strategic and tactic mistakes.


Jerry Sanders

AMD had a winning K7 micro-architecture in 2000 thanks to acquisition of chip design team from Digital/DEC and was readying even more promising x86-64 micro-architecture known as K8. From the roadmap and technology standpoints back in 2000 the company was very well set: it had plans, it had engineers with innovative ideas, it had leading-edge manufacturing facilities. What AMD did not have was a reputation, history of flawless execution and internal stability. So, in 2002, Jerry Sanders stepped down and Hector Ruiz became the CEO of AMD.

Hector Ruiz was pretty well-known in the semiconductor world due to his work at Motorola and he was among the perfect candidates to persuade new partners, particularly among large PC and server makers, to start using AMD microprocessors. Besides, he should ensure AMD’s stable and sustainable growth for many years to come. Thanks to progressive AMD64 micro-architecture and performance of Athlon 64 and Opteron central processing units, AMD’s market share started to increase from the year 2004.


Hector Ruiz. Image from generation-nt.com

Mr. Ruiz has achieved quite a lot of goals at AMD, including market share increase, score a number of major contracts with largest server makers, including IBM, Dell, HP, Sun Microsystems and others, expansion of design centers and manufacturing facilities, starting platform-oriented strategy with the acquisition of ATI Technologies, building relations with key customers and transforming AMD into a respected supplier of commercial and enterprise-class components.

But there are failures too. Even though under the rule of Mr. Ruiz AMD managed to increase its market share rather considerably from about 18% to approximately 23%, the key technologies that helped AMD to transform into a leading CPU maker from an underdog – HyperTransport, K7 and K8 micro-architectures – were developed under the supervision of the previous chief executive and the founder of AMD, Jerry Sanders.

Hector Ruiz also could not fix several fundamental issues that AMD has always had. The ramp up of new processor micro-architectures has always took a considerable amount of time at AMD and the delays of chips based on K10 micro-architecture with up to four processing engines is a good proof for that. Additionally, transitions to new manufacturing technologies have also been slow at AMD and Mr. Ruiz did not manage to change that. In fact, the biggest mistake of Hector Ruiz while at AMD was to slowdown transition from 90nm to 65nm. The transition from 90nm to 65nm took AMD three years (from October, 2004, when the first 90nm chips were launched, to September, 2007, when the first 65nm high-end chips were released) and left AMD completely uncompetitive against Intel in terms of performance. Instead of adopting Intel's tick-tock model, AMD had to sell its fabs off in 2008 - 2009 timeframe in order not to go bankrupt. But this is a completely different story...

 
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