AMD Rehires Renowned Graphics Expert from Apple

Raja Koduri Returns to AMD After Four Years at Apple

by Anton Shilov
04/19/2013 | 06:57 PM

A day after posting the worst business results in nine years, Advanced Micro Devices announced that it had managed to re-hire its former chief technology officer for graphics business unit from Apple, where he spent around four years. While the return of Raja Koduri, a renowned graphics expert, is a good news for struggling AMD, it remains to be seen whether he will be enough to turn the company around.

 

Raja Koduri, who started his career at S3 Graphics, was one of the leading designers of discrete graphics chips at ATI Technologies and then AMD’s graphics products group for about eight years. Besides, Mr. Koduri was one of the GPGPU (general-purpose computing on graphics processing units) visionaries at the company. His departure to Apple was a great loss for AMD back in 2009, but a great acquisition for Apple, which needed to boost its graphics capabilities and which it clearly did. Raja Koduri was the director of graphics architecture at Apple.

Mr. Koduri joins AMD as corporate vice president of visual computing and he will report to Mark Papermaster, a former exec from IBM and Apple and now the chief technology officer of AMD. Raja Koduri will greatly strengthen AMD’s graphics group by joining John Gustafson, senior fellow and chief product architect at graphics business unit, as well as a number of other well-known engineers.

“Maintaining AMD’s position as a leader in visual computing is the key to our long-term success. As one of the industry’s foremost experts in developing leading-edge visual computing solutions, Raja brings exceptional vision and strength to AMD’s world-class engineering leadership team. Given his past record of success, Raja will help AMD lead the way in visual and accelerated computing and ensure we continue developing the industry-leading graphics IP that forms the foundation for our future growth,” said Mr. Papermaster in a statement.

The vice president of visual computing will likely be one of the leading developers of AMD’s next-generation graphics architectures. Since architectural development takes three to four years these days (AMD’s VLIW5 and VLIW4 architectures lasted from 2007 to 2012 in commercial products before letting GCN to enter the scene), it makes sense to expect influence of Mr. Koduri onto commercial products due in 2016 or even 2017.

The return of Mr. Koduri to AMD is, without any doubts, a remarkable event for the company. In the past year AMD hired a number of great people and gave them important roles at the firm, which is process of a redevelopment. While talented sales persons like John Byrne or Roy Taylor, can succeed in almost all situations, provided that the products they sell are more or less competitive, star engineers like Jim Keller (the designer of AMD64 micro-architecture) or Raja Koduri need significant material resources to deliver leading-edge technologies.

Back in Q1 2008 AMD’s spending on research and development (R&D) was $501 million, when Mr. Koduri left in Q1 2009 it was $305 million and in Q1 2013 it is $312 million. Nowadays, AMD’s per-quarter R&D expenditure is in-line with Nvidia’s $298 million (in Q4 FY2013); but the latter does not develop many types of microprocessors as well as microprocessor architectures.

It remains to be seen whether the new AMD team created by Rory Read (CEO) and Mark Papermaster (CTO) can actually deliver CPU products competitive with Intel’s, GPU products competitive with Nvidia’s as well as various SoCs competitive with multiple rivals with rather limited amount of resources. One thing is known for sure: great people are usually do great things for all companies.