While this may not come as news to some of you, this certainly did come as news to us. One of AMD’s very highly regarded architects has left the company. While the company hasn’t said anything officially about his departure, his Linkedin profile states that he is simply ‘on sabbatical’ but lists his departure from AMD as June 2013. What’s curious about his departure is that he was being sold to many of us, including members of the press as part of the new brain trust at AMD. The man himself is responsible for a law of computer science called Gustafson’s Law which governs the parallelization of large data sets. Essentially, he is an HPC expert and was a perfect fit for AMD to regain some market share in the GPGPU and HPC market where their competitor, Nvidia is strongest.
John Gustaffson, around 2005
However, he left the company less than a year after joining them, and as anyone in the world of computer architectures knows, you can’t get anything done in less than a year. Sure, he is a very highly regarded architect, but there is also a possibility that he was rendered irrelevant by new personnel changes. Most notably, the introduction of Raja Koduri, which surprisingly came back to AMD after a 4 year stint at Apple. Raja actually started working at AMD around the same time that Gustafson left, so there’s a good chance that AMD didn’t believe that they needed two big name architects. Now, if you take into consideration the fanfare that AMD had put around Koduri in Hawaii at GPU14, and the fact that many of us in the press never met Gustafson, there is a good chance he was not well received. Nevertheless, AMD could still use someone like Gustafson to head up their professional graphics division, or at least their HPC division where they have already been seeing some improvements.
Raja Koduri up on a hill inside Diamondhead Crater in Hawaii during GPU14
In addition to Raja’s return which AMD publicized greatly, and Gustafsons very quite departure, AMD has also made some pretty important internal reshufflings as well. Most notably, we’ve heard that one of AMD’s best driver guys has moved back into helping to make drivers. That guy is none other than Terry Makedon, also known as Catalystmaker. He spent the last two years at AMD managing software marketing, while 10 years before that he spent as the manager of product management for Catalyst and all Radeon related software. Now he’s back in a more familiar title as the manager of roadmap and strategy for AMD software. What this should mean is that Terry is back with helping with drivers and making sure that they live up to his expectations. Considering that AMD’s drivers were at their best under his helm, I believe that we could see days where AMD’s drivers are once again very good, if he gets the people he needs to make it happen.
Right now, AMD’s drivers are in a pretty good place, but they have been making some tweaks to them that have caused some issues. Most notably with the 290X and the performance variance between cards. Admittedly, AMD’s drivers are still much better than they were many years ago, but they’re not as good as they were at their pinnacle and for them to be competitive with Nvidia and to make sure Mantle goes off without a hitch, they’ll need some pretty damn good drivers.