IN THIS FOURTH and, regrettably, final part of our interview with Intel Digital Enterprise Group SVP Pat Gelsinger, we cover off the Big Issues: the time AMD sprinted past Intel, the axis with Microsoft, the difficulties of balancing a huge number of SKUs and platform efforts, Mr. Gelsinger’s personal ambitions, and, of course, the day he kicked INQUIRER editor Mike Magee.
Approaching the topic with a little stealth and even more grovelling, we asked Gelsinger about, er, you know, the time AMD was doing alright with Opteron, by some measures of how you look at these things. That is to say that Intel had a little, er, blip?
“A blip?” he thunders back and suddenly The INQUIRER is thinking it has seen its last tape out.
“We screwed up and left the door open and they walked in through it,” he shrieks. “It caused us to retool our development engine. We’d put on a few pounds and were not exercising enough.”
The upside and gravy of that clash was that Intel changed for the better, most notably in internal processes, according to Gelsinger.
In particular, an indirect consequence of AMD turning from perennial wooden-spoon holder to contender was that Intel went to the current “tick-tock” roll-out strategy of alternating new microarchitectures with die-shrinks and derivatives, and delivering new microarchitecture generations every two years.
Still, the squillions of SKUs pumped out by Intel today must make life more complicated than in the glory days of the 386 when Intel’s entire processor range was, what, a dozen chips?
Gelsinger isn’t having it.
“Tick-tock means we are all based on a common architecture. We have 10,000 people marching in a cadenced way,” he says.
But how in heck do you manage the R&D complexity when most of us struggle with finding a matching pair of socks and remembering where the keys are?
“Managing complexity is a hands-on job, seven by 24,” he concedes. “Between Dadi’ [Perlmutter, Intel mobility group chief] and myself we pretty much run the whole of Intel’s [processor and platform] technology development. We meet every week and review work going on between the two groups. We have teams that are co-operative and semi-competitive. Does Oregon want to do better than Israel? You bet. Does Israel want to do better than Oregon? You bet.”
There you have it then, weekly meetings and set the teams off on a phoney war.
So, what about Microsoft. Is Wintel as strong an axis as in the days of yore? Is the bond still as strong?
“Yes and no. Now we support Mac, virtual infrastructure, Linux, Solaris. We’re working to be a platform of choice."
So you’re finally allowed to use a Mac?
Turns out that Gelsinger has two: a Mac Mini and an Imac, as well as four PCs including a ThinkPad X41. He is now shopping for that latest sweet piece of kit, a Gateway One.
Recalling the day Sean Maloney declined to answer a question as to whether he aspires to be Intel CEO, we ask if Gelsinger has a similar ambition. But he’s right on our ruse with a straight answer, saying his grand plan is to be Intel president, should the company ever deign to grant him that role.
Craig Barrett said he regretted the fact Intel had made modest headway on phones. Does Mr Gelsinger agree? He spins a little here, giving a Soviet-style five-year plan in place of a direct answer.
“In five years, I want to have taken IA and made it the mobile architecture of choice. I also want to take x86 architecture to the pinnacles of the datacentre because 50 per cent of that market is still on the mainframe. I declared the death of the mainframe in the late 1980s and I can still be right,” he quips.
OK, so what about the incident that led Mike Magee to name him Kicking Pat? We need the details, especially as Magee himself will only answer with cryptic comments.
“He hasn’t told you? We had an international press conference and he asked me about AMD. I gave him an answer, then he asked me again, and I gave him the same answer. Then he asks the same question again, and I kick his chair all the way to the front of the room, everybody looking at me like I’m crazy, kicking this press person. I ask everybody to repeat the answer.”
But then he drops the bombshell. There were not one but TWO kicking incidents! How and why?
“Another time I kicked him in the leg to shut him up…”
Even if he hadn’t done so much to foster development of the modern microprocessor, we can surely all agree that for this alone, Pat Gelsinger merits the status of INQUIRER legend. µ
Pat Gelsinger says chips have to keep getting faster Part 1
Pat Gelsinger on changing computing models Part 2
Intel mulled buying Nvidia ATI Part 3
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