Advanced Computing in the Age of AI | Friday, April 23, 2021

Industry Veteran Jim Keller Joins Tenstorrent as President and CTO 

Jim Keller has already had a storied career. Over the past few decades, Keller (pictured left) has worked everywhere from AMD to Tesla, helping to develop new chips and hardware. Now, the industry veteran has announced his next move: Tenstorrent, an AI chip startup, where he will serve as president and chief technology officer.

Headquartered in Toronto, Tenstorrent is working to bring to market what it calls “the first dynamic artificial intelligence architecture facilitating scalable deep learning.” The flagship of these efforts to date is Tenstorrent’s Grayskull processor, which contains 120 Tensix cores and supports up to eight channels of LPDDR4 DRAM and 16 lanes of PCIe Gen 4. Grayskull, which was announced last spring, is currently shipping to Tenstorrent’s (as-yet undisclosed) customers.

"Tenstorrent was founded on the belief that the ongoing shift towards ML-centric software necessitates a corresponding transformation in computational capabilities," said Ljubisa Bajic, CEO of Tenstorrent. "There is nobody more capable of executing this vision than Jim Keller, a leader who is equally great at designing computers, cultures, and organizations. I am thrilled to be working with Jim and beyond excited about the possibilities our partnership unlocks."

Keller’s career includes high-profile stints at AMD (where he designed the Zen cores that helped the company compete in datacenters once more), Tesla and Apple. Most recently, Keller joined Intel in 2018 as a senior vice president leading the company’s silicon engineering. During his time there, he was named one of HPCwire’s 2019 People to Watch. He left Intel in June of last year, citing personal reasons and announcing a six-month consultant role with the company. 

Now – exactly six months later – at Tenstorrent, Keller will be working to boost “Software 2.0”: the use of machine learning to accelerate development processes beyond traditional code bases and software.

"Software 2.0 is the largest opportunity for computing innovation in a long time. Victory requires a comprehensive re-thinking of compute and low level software," Keller said. "Tenstorrent has made impressive progress, and with the most promising architecture out there, we are poised to become a next gen computing giant."

In an interview with HPCwire when he was named a Person to Watch, Keller described the intriguing path of his career.

“Number one is I always work on interesting problems,” he said. “Number two is I really get into the details of what I’m doing and what the results of my design – both good and bad – are. Details and problems are inspiring to me. You learn more from your mistakes than your successes.”

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