Now she’s running AMD, kicking ass and taking names. Pretty frigging cool.
At one of the Motorola research plants in Arizona. Back when Motorola still made semiconductor and PowerPC chips.
You’re right that I could use exact numbers, but I’m a dumb human who at one point puts an exact number and at another tries to be clever and vague (and fails).
I could do the math, you’re right. It was also a long time ago and I could have been 8 or 10. But 9 sounds right.
Edit: I see now, you edited your comment and I think that caused a lot of confusion
I still have “when I was 9” up top. You mean on my reply? You are right, I did say 9.
I just tried to be clear and concise. Sorry if it’s causing grief. Was not my intention!
But GGGGP literally said "when I was 9", quite authoritatively
It's like it's a more viscous entity than an integer.
My SO got quite upset a couple of years ago because I didn't know on the spot how old she got on her birthday. My explanation that it's much more efficient to remember the year she was born given that it doesn't change compared to her age fell on deaf ears..
* Jerry Sanders | 1969—2002 | Founder, electrical engineer
* Hector Ruiz | 2002—2008 | Electrical engineer
* Dirk Meyer | 2008—2011 | Computer engineer
* Rory Read | 2011—2014 | Information Systems
* Lisa Su | 2014—present | Electrical engineer
And yet only two of them (Jerry and Lisa) are considered truly successful at running the company and one decent at keeping things afloat (Rory). The real answer is much more complex and has to do with Intel’s constant monopolistic actions against AMD; some internal struggles (overheating issues early on, bad laptop support, spinning off business divisions right before they were set to be wildly valuable [Adreno, Spansion, etc], wildly overpaying for ATI, etc).
While Jerry and Lisa are both great CEOs for the company, and all credit belongs to them for their leadership; AMD’s woes were simply more complex than that.
1 - https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advanced_Micro_Devices
What i have seen in other companies is that even if the CEO is a subject matter expert, they get to the level of CEO then start deferring business matters to the MBA's who are viewed as subject matter experts of business. This weak leadership and difference to MBA's often leads to extreme short term thinking and lack of vision centered around quarterly probability statements not around core competences or a vision for making the companies product good
Don’t shy away from learning the business. The hardest part of my MBA was accounting — and you can take an accounting class at community college.
I’m a big proponent of domain drive design, at least in principle, but I’ve yet to meet the manager who’s going to let developers “waste” the time of the domain experts on “pointless minutiae” instead of just shutting up and writing the damned software.
Good sales people "want" make your company viable by having money
Tech people "want" to have state of art product
Both are good things at different moments of company lifetime
It sucks to have only engineering people and no people who can do business.
Intel has been dropping the ball in engineering precisely because their teams seem to be focused exclusively on the next quarter/year results.
In a market where it takes 5y to get a product out, you need your people focused in the long term.
MBA's are plagued by short term thinking around quarterly earnings not building sustainable businesses
If only the world was this simple.
Engineer leaders tend to have more focus on long term and incremental building. They consider the engineering departments to be the heart of the company.
MBAs tend to focus more energy on sales and marketing, and they generally follow the “internalize profit centers, externalize cost centers” mantra. It’s not uncommon for engineering departments to get axed and externalized.
Semiconductor engineering, and specially computing products flourish i. The first scenario and suffer in the second.
To an MBA, selling off all the IP, selling it off, divesting of key assets and leasing them back, while owning a portion of the relationship at the end is success, treating sales as the most key part of the business process.
To an engineer, in-sourcing, building up strong engineering, R&D, recruiting strong engineering talent, and optimizing product for tradeoffs, treating the output of products itself as the most key part of the business process.
Lisa Su has done just that - if you create the best product based on the best engineering, the buyers will come.
In some markets, absolutely. In others not so much.
Lisa has absolutely got the power to cause catastrophic ruin to AMD through a couple of small decisions and there is nobody who can stop her.
The reality that she didn't do that is just more important than the fact that Papermaster or Keller are technical geniuses and work hard. There are 8 billion people in the world, we are not short on technical geniuses. There are something like 8,000 people out there who are natural born one-in-a-million geniuses at CPU design, Su "just" has to find a few 10s of them for AMD to get insanely good results. There is an eternal shortage of people who are both powerful, good decision makers and capable of recognising a 1:1,000,000 genius.
If there are 8,000 people who can design excellent CPUs, there are perhaps 1,000,000 people who can recognize such talent.
It is easier to recognize a great painting than to paint it. I'm surprised that HN so often lionizes those who organize the work of others.
"Organizing the work of others" is no small task, and people who can really do it well are few and far between.
That's not to take anything away from engineers, but it is to say that good management is something you largely only notice when it's missing, and you need good management to create the environment where good engineers can do their work.
It's an SF book, you have a small group trying to survive in an alien world at war. The guy who pulls them through is the canny merchant, who marshalls the skills of others and negotiates their salvation.
I think the narrator in the book was the engineer - and so was the author, Poul Anderson.
There's interesting interview about Keller's role in AMD, especially
>We had this really fun meeting, and it was one of the best experiences of my life. Suzanne called me up and said that people on the Zen team don't believe they can do it. I said, ‘great - I'll drive to the airport, I’m in California, and I'll see you there tomorrow morning, eight o'clock. Make sure you have a big room with lots of whiteboards’. It was like 30 angry people ready to tell me all the reasons why it wouldn't work. So I just wrote all of the reasons down on a whiteboard, and we spent two days solving them. It was wild because it started with me defending against the gang, but people started to jump in. I was like, whenever possible, when somebody would say ‘I know how we fix that’, I would give them the pen and they would get up on the board and explain it. It worked out really good. The thing was, the honesty of what they did, was great. Here are all the problems that we don't know how to solve, and so we're putting them on the table. They didn't give you 2 reasons but hold back 10 and say ‘you solve those two’. There was none of that kind of bullshit kind of stuff. They were serious people that had real problems, and they'd been through projects where people said they could solve these problems, and they couldn't. So they were probably calling me out, but like I’m just not a bullshitter. I’m not a bullshitter, but I told them how some we can do, some I don't know. But I remember, Mike Clark was there and he said we could solve all these problems. You know I walked out when our thing is pretty good, and people walked out of the room feeling okay, but two days later problems all pop back up. So you know, like how often do you have to go convince somebody? But that’s why they got through it. It wasn’t just me hectoring them from the sidelines, there were lots of people and lots of parts of the team that really said, they’re willing to really put some energy into this, which is great.
>Ian Cutress: Most of the audience questions are focused on your time at AMD, so let’s start there. You worked at AMD on Zen, and on the Skybridge platform - AMD is now gaining market share with the Zen product line, and you're off on to bigger and better things. But there has been a lot of confusion as to your exact role at AMD during that project. Some people believe you were integral in nailing down Zen’s design, then Zen 2 and Zen 3 high-level microarchitecture. Others believe that you put the people in place, signed off at high level, and then went to focus on the Arm version of Skybridge, K12. Can you give us any clarity as to your role there, how deep you went with Zen versus K12, or your involvement in things like Infinity Fabric?
>Jim Keller: Yeah, it was a complicated project, right? At AMD when I joined, they had Bulldozer and Jaguar, and they both had some charming features but they weren't successful in the market. The roadmaps weren't aggressive, they were falling behind Intel, and so that's not a good thing to do if you're already behind - you better be catching up, not falling behind. So I took the role, and I was president of the CPU team which I think when I joined was 500 people. Then over the next three years the SoC team, the Fabric team, and some IP teams joined my little gang. I think when I left, it was 2400 people I was told. So I was a VP with a staff. I had senior directors reporting to me, and the senior fellows, and my staff was 15 people. So I was hardly writing RTL!
>That said we did a whole bunch of things. I'm a computer architect, I’m not really a manager. I wanted the management role, which was the biggest management role I'd had at the time. Up to that point I'd been the VP of a start-up, but that was 50 people, and we all got along - this was a fairly different play for me. I knew that the technical changes we had to make would involve getting people aligned to it. I didn't want to be the architect on the side arguing with the VP about why somebody could or couldn’t do the job, or why this was the right or wrong decision. I spoke to Mark Papermaster, I told him my theory, and he said ‘okay, we'll give it a try’, and it worked out pretty good.
>With that I had direct authority as it were - but people don't really do what they're told to do, right? They do what they're inspired to do. So you have to lay out a plan, and part of it was finding out who were the right people to do these different things, and sometimes somebody is really good, but people get very invested in what they did last time, or they believe things can't be changed, and I would say my view was things were so bad that almost everything had to change. So I went in with that as a default. Does that make sense? Now, it wasn't that we didn't find a whole bunch of stuff that was good to use. But you had to prove that the old thing was good, as opposed to prove the new thing was good, so we changed that mindset.
>Architecturally, I had a pretty good idea what I wanted to build and why. I found people inside the company, such as Mike Clark, Leslie Barnes, Jay Fleischman, and others. There are quite a few really great people that once we describe what we wanted to do, they were like, ‘yeah, we want to do that’. Architecturally, I had some input. There was often decisions and analysis, and people have different opinions, so I was fairly hands-on doing that. But I wasn't doing block diagrams or writing RTL. We had multiple projects going on - there was Zen, there was the Arm cousin of that, the follow-on, and some new SoC methodology. But we did more than just CPU design - we did methodology design, IP refactoring, very large organizational changes. I was hands-on top to bottom with all that stuff, so it makes sense.
>IC: A few people consider you 'The Father of Zen', do you think you’d scribe to that position? Or should that go to somebody else?
>JK: Perhaps one of the uncles. There were a lot of really great people on Zen. There was a methodology team that was worldwide, the SoC team was partly in Austin and partly in India, the floating-point cache was done in Colorado, the core execution front end was in Austin, the Arm front end was in Sunnyvale, and we had good technical leaders. I was in daily communication for a while with Suzanne Plummer and Steve Hale, who kind of built the front end of the Zen core, and the Colorado team. It was really good people. Mike Clark's a great architect, so we had a lot of fun, and success. Success has a lot of authors - failure has one. So that was a success. Then some teams stepped up - we moved Excavator to the Boston team, where they took over finishing the design and the physical stuff, Harry Fair and his guys did a great job on that. So there were some fairly stressful organizational changes that we did, going through that. The team all came together, so I think there was a lot of camaraderie in it. So I won't claim to be the ‘father’ - I was brought in, you know, as the instigator and the chief nudge, but part architect part transformational leader. That was fun.
The guy is so..normal/humble. Looks like someone who you'd get drunk with at some barbecue. Then he talks and just blows you away with how much he knows.
If you haven't already, highly suggest watching his Lex Fridman interview. I learned a lot from it, both about chips and Keller.
When he joined Intel, he publicly implied it was where he belonged and his 'last job.'
Not long after, he left, for personal reasons. A lot of people speculated it was health related, for some reason. Then, he just goes elsewhere, making it clear he just didn't like Intel.
Part of me wonders if this had some hand in the CEO getting sacked. If your business is so toxic Keller won't touch it, that's a really bad sign.
So, it's finally confirmed! Zen had an ARM front-end after all.
They cancelled it though as they saw :
1) the ARM server market wasn't happenning, at least not at the timeframe the product was to be ready for
2) the x86-64 could really be competitive with Intel
Then Intel had some issues and here we are.
AMD had 2020 revenues of $9.76bln to Intel's $77.87bln. This eclipse is going to take awhile. I'm really excited for the results.
Intel was never 8 times bigger; AMD has actually always retained a respectable market share; ~20% market share is nothing to sneer at.
> AMD had 2020 revenues of $9.76bln to Intel's $77.87bln.
Ever heard of a solar eclipse? ;)
First, you need good material to work with. This is why it will be hard/impossible to fix WeWork. Sadly it may also make Intel hard/impossible to fix — lots of great stuff but deeply embedded in a matrix of mediocrity. same for HP (poor choices at the top didn’t help) and probably why google can’t be fixed — even more than Intel they have a lot of excellent resources and assets but they are embedded, not in mediocrity, but a fucked up management culture. And they haven’t had their near death experience yet.
Second: have enough domain knowledge to be able to identify and nurture the good stuff. One exception to this was Gerstner at IBM (at the time I derided him as “the cookie guy”). He famously visited most of IBM around the world and then his grand plan was: “actually things are great — let’s not make any changes”. In reality he shook up the management culture but let most the tech people keep teching. That righted the ship. Sadly he was not followed by successful CEOs, some of whom were otherwise admirable.
Third: be lucky the right way. Sometimes a company won’t catch a break (e.g. being a stagecoach maker today) but if there is a trend, or even better a phase change in the market you can take advantage of, take advantage of it. This is the “lucky generals” theory.
Lisa Su is a consummate techie but she uses her brilliance cleverly: she can match what’s going on inside the company with external needs, and channel the marketing and sales people to address it in the right way.
Sometimes you can’t pull it off. Hector Ruiz was a wizard at Motorola yet somehow he could pull it off at AMD. I couldn’t understand why.
OTOH look at someone like Gil Amelio. He only got one thing right at Apple, which was to fire himself and bring back Steve Jobs. But that was an important thing.
Even if their hardware catches up with and beats that of NVidia, they will still have a huge problem with the software ecosystem.
Everyone who does anything serious with GPGPU and supercomputing is using CUDA, (a proprietary abomination) these days and AMD does not have a competitive product in that space.
That said, the software ecosystem around GPUs is an extraordinary mess, and there is therefore a huge opportunity for the company that can fix it.
Unfortunately, this is a deep cultural problem: as witnessed by the giant mess that is the Nvidia software ecosystem (nightmarish driver version management, proprietary technology, huge unwieldy binary distribution to install anytime you want to run 20 lines of GPGPU code, lack of properly working and debugging and profiling tools, etc...) companies run by EEs (such as Dr. Su) simply don't have the DNA to produce simple, clean, elegant, working software.
The kind of brain it takes to produce cutting edge silicon and the kind of brain it takes to produce cutting edge software are imo simply incompatible.
The ecosystem around AMD GPUs is quite small - and now that they seem to have abandoned OpenCL (possibly not their own fault though) - even that is put into question.
But things are bad even on the NVIDIA side. Example of how bad: I had to write my own C++ bindings for the CUDA runtime API (https://github.com/eyalroz/cuda-api-wrappers/). You'd think they would have that after 13 years of CUDA being available, right? Wrong. I repeatedly tried to pitch this to them, but they seem to suffer from the "Not Invented Here" syndrome (https://learnosity.com/not-invented-here-syndrome-explained/). This despite me having a lot of respect for people like Mark Harris, Bryce Lelbach, Duane Merrill et alia, and their work.
You're also rights about the "two kinds of brains" - or rather, it's not clear to me that the brains creating the silicon and the brains creating the software are in close enough cooperation.
By the way - it is possible to extract a pretty distribution of CUDA to justify run 20 lines of GPGPU code, from their installer. But they won't be bothered to package this nicely for you.
The list continues, and is a long one worthy of a short documentary. Apple excels at a few interface consistencies and at selling premium hardware with high margins in part due to an admittedly deserved proficiency with supply chain consistency & scale, and with convincing customers to pay with their kidneys for marginal upgrades e.g. 400% up charges on RAM and Storage.
The M1 is impressive, certainly agree, but it won’t be too long before others catch-up. Still, let’s not get ahead of ourselves about Apple and software prowess. It’s been a long time since I preferred Cupertino’s code to Redmond’s or Mountain View’s.
As someone on the outskirts of Fuchsia, looking on with longing, desperation, and confusion... do you have some connection to the mysterious pink project?
We are still waiting for other arm chips to catch up to A series iPhones.
Also, your hyperbole use of “sickening” betrays your extreme bias. Are you actually sickened by the overwrought animations?
I don't think I agree.
Apple is not really a great software company.
Especially if you consider how closed their ecosystem generally is: a large part of their stack is basically completely opaque, closed-source and worst of all, prone to change at the whim of the company.
I've always had a hard time understanding why anyone in the business of building technical infrastructure (other than user-facing retail stuff) would ever consider using their products.
iPod changed the world.
The iPhone Changed the world
Apple II changed the world.
Those successes were largely driven by good software.
Apple’s M series chips are only used in low end systems at the moment, so not sure what you meant by markup.
According to leaks their next generation GPUs will be multichip like their CPUs, and Nvidia needs 1 more generation to get there, so they might indeed get a step up on them.
I don't think there's any denying that woman have faced decades of discrimination in the workplace, and that the current zeitgeist is that this discrimination was and is particularly bad in technology-related fields.
In that context, it makes her contributions and accomplishments all the more considerable. I don't see how that's insulting to acknowledge, that she likely had more obstacles working against her than her male peers. Pretty well documented obstacles, with no shortage of examples.
Some context, when she took over, not only was the CPU division in shambles and the product line not that great, but the internal infighting was terrible between the GPU and the CPU division. Most of it was fuelled by the marketing department taking the GPU side.
Not only did she had to handle this, but soon enough she had part of the company actively working against her to get her removed and replaced. I can't tell you how many times some very senior AMD people would go to the press and bad mouth her, talking about her incompetence (and I'm putting things mildly), and seeding rumors about her near and ineluctable ousting.
Political infighting in a large org is always a thing, but I never noticed anything that publicly overt (at least to the press), prolonged, and acrimonious.
She focused a lot on righting the CPU division and getting the trust of key senior people there and in the end, it paid. During that same period, same people from above were seeding rumors that Ryzen was going to be a bust, and the character attacks went up to 11.
I remember the first Ryzen press event, and you could see a mix of relief and confidence (I would say that prior to that event, she never appeared confident on stage) that came with it during her presentation. At that time she knew that not only she had a good product line for the next few years, but that the coup attempt would die down.
It took some time but those behind the attempts left the company and AMD ended up in a better place.
So yep, her resilience always impressed me and she will never get enough credit for it. AMD's turnaround is obviously not just hers, it's shared with many key people (eg. on Zen, Mike Clark, and Keller who - check for the Anandtech interview in another comment  - made the battered and bruised teams believe they actually could).
But she definitely played a large part in it. A bit before Ryzen was released, I remember casually asking one very senior person on the CPU division what he thought about Lisa. He started talking about the fact that sometimes she sets impossible deadlines (which boss doesn't?), but then he paused and reflected a bit and said "but she listens and understands". Coming from that person, that was about as much praise anyone in management could get.
 : https://www.anandtech.com/show/16762/an-anandtech-interview-...
But congrats to Lisa Su as the person who turned AMD around. They have, IMO, utterly eclipsed Intel. I wouldn’t buy anything else.
AMD released the Ryzen 1700x, with 8 cores, for cheaper than what I paid for my 6 core, and something like half the price of Intel's 8 core offering. AMD made 4 core the baseline, while Intel was still selling 2 core i3s, and they made 6 cores the middle of the road. All of them had hardware threading enabled, whereas Intel had disabled hyper-threading in its i5 line.
AMD also committed to supporting the AM4 socket for multiple release cycles. With BIOS updates, motherboards that launched with with the 1XXX series can run the newest 5XXX series (subject to being able to power them). And the Ryzen motherboards came in two flavors: one that was very affordable (the BX50 series) and one that was more expensive, but had features enthusiasts want (the XY70 series).
I don't want to sound like I'm gushing, but AMD came out swinging with Ryzen. I'm probably misremembering, but looking back, I think the only advantage Intel really had at the time was single core performance (and for a niche audience, AVX512). Subsequent Ryzen releases have really closed the performance gap and there the TSMC process improvements help. AMD has garnered a lot of good will at this point. They shook up the stagnant CPU market with both features and price.
It's socket compatible but not chipset compatible. X370 officially tops out at 3xxx series. Maybe you'll get lucky and find an unofficial bios hack for 5xxx but unlikely.
So to upgrade from a Ryzen 1xxx to a 5xxx in practice means a motherboard upgrade.
But I do agree, all these comparisons we’ve seen between Intel 14 and TSMC 7 have been… less than helpful for comparing technology. Good for end users making purchasing decisions, of course.
I remember buying the Phenom II X6 1100T day one (December 2010) because we were all waiting for AMD to rise like a phoenix and dethrone Intel's incredible Core series chips
10 months later (October 2011) Bulldozer finally launched, before crashing and burning on the launch pad almost immediately
It was a hard time being an AMD fan a decade ago :(
Unfortunately, I needed to replace that server before Zen showed up, so the next iteration was (and is) an Intel chip. (Slightly tempted to upgrade it again ~soon, but not impressed by Intel's current "lower-power" Xeon designs, AMD's Epyc Embedded last had an iteration in Zen 1 and according to leaks won't see a new one until 2023(!) and Zen 4, and AArch64 is not bad but I haven't seen anyone selling a server board that was in the right spot between size/power/performance/price yet...)
yes but Intel announced 7nm delay while TSMC 5nm is in production and 3nm in risk production. Intel is behind.
Should be good for consumers for a while with all this new competition (P.S. Apple, please sell Raspberry Pi some M1s just to scare Intel and AMD)
As soon as I saw that back in 2016 I bought a ton of AMD stock. It was clearly a winner because they could have a lower cost design AND potentially better performance.
I’m curious what you even mean here as against the odds? If it’s a technical masterpiece, both a man and a women can equally be recognized by IEEE for that hard work. But if it’s a woman, than you also need to recognize there’s been many other hardships along the way in addition to the technical brilliance needed. It’s not patronizing at all — that would be if I were to suggest a woman isn’t as capable. Here it’s the opposite — I’m saying they’re just as capable, but society is setup in such a way to present many additional obstacles that men don’t have. To not recognize that is to ignore the realities of the world.
If you yourself are a woman or a minority, I’m sure you can appreciate that. If not, I’d encourage you to go and listen to the experiences of those who are — this is very well documented.
'Looking back, Lu divides her career path into two parts.'
bad copy editor?
probably sloppy editing, since the articles uses "Su" aaalmost consistently.
Quite a turnaround.
Is it too late to buy AMD stock? It hasn't made much progress since last year. ASML, on the other hand, has had a fantastic couple of years. Buying stock nisbrisky. Being indecisive is also risky due to the crazy inflation.
Also had to sell a similar stake in Microsoft before the turnaround :(
Now maybe I'm too mellow but that's how I felt doing it at first. Maybe I'd rather be a team leader that makes everybody happier working together and sharing.. I can't say.
Currently the ratio is only 1.5 due to uncertainty if the deal will get through regulatory approval, which is a nice arbitrage opportunity if you think it will.
My feeling is it really depends on if they can cement themselves enough to pick up serious datacenter share before someone gets into a technically competitive position (Intel getting their plans back together, an ARM vendor convincing people to make the switch). From what Intel's revealed so far, that feels a couple of years out still.
How much of that is hopium and how much is fair value of future prospects?
Disclaimer: I own no stock.
I want to see more female CEOs like her, because there are too many like Mary Barra who are there to show the company has a strong female at the helm. And people like her end up doing really poorly and give fuel to sexists. People like Lisa Su just show that women can straight up compete and win.
Also weird how your chart didn’t include Tesla. You must be genuinely comparing her to her competition and not cherry picking the lowest performers.
It's not useful if you're trying to ascertain how someone did trying to revive an old US car company versus how other people did. Nobody was going to make GM go up 12,000%.
It's not that women make bad leaders. It's just that activist types often make bad leaders, because often their activism is a thin veil over their incompetence.
Surprising: looks like putting someone in charge who actually understands - in depth - how the business and the tech. that powers is actually works instead of random MBA-wielding drones seem to yield good results.
And Intel is also finally learning that lesson with their new CEO.
AMD also got a huge injection of investment from the middle east. Without that money nobody can save it.
She is great, but not that great.