Radeon Exec Raja Koduri Has Left AMD

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A little over two years ago, AMD announced that it would restructure its high-end GPU development team. This new unit, dubbed the Radeon Technologies Group, would be led by senior vice president Raja Koduri. While RTG was never an independent spin-off or subsidiary, it enjoyed a fair degree of autonomy and concentrated AMD driver development, developer relations, GPU design, and GPU architectures all under the same unit. This was a departure from the previous arrangement, in which AMD has substantially unified its APU, CPU, and GPU teams. RTG, we were told, would be the vehicle AMD needed to deliver a best-in-class part that could compete with anything Nvidia had to offer. Now, Raja has announced he’s leaving AMD (he had been on sabbatical for the past 40 days).

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Hexus obtained a copy of the memo Koduri sent to other members of the RTG group. In it, he thanks his co-workers for their hard work and dedication to a difficult two-year period and specifically mentions both Lisa Su and Mark Papermaster for the trust they extended to him in forming and backing RTG in the first place.

An Unsurprising Departure

On the one hand, this news is no surprise; we’ve heard rumors Raja might be leaving for several weeks now. But the other reason it’s not surprising is because both Polaris and Vega have struggled to match Nvidia’s own GPUs. Now, keep in mind, the lead time on GPU designs is quite long. AMD was working on Polaris long before they announced it in late 2015; Vega’s design would’ve likely been underway by then as well. AMD’s RX 400 series was solid and reasonably well positioned, if not a knockout, but the RX 580 only managed to increase its performance by burning a great deal more power. Boosting the RX 580’s clocks brought it more in line with the GTX 1060, but power efficiency remained elusive.

Vega 56 and Vega 64 have a similar problem. By the time the cards were ready for market, Nvidia’s Pascal had been out for 15 months. In ordinary circumstances, one might reasonably expect AMD to (pardon the pun) piledrive Nvidia. But that’s not what happened. Instead, the Vega 56 established itself as a somewhat faster GPU compared with the GTX 1070, while Vega 64 lags a bit behind the GTX 1080.

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Data by Tech Report

This is certainly better than having no high-end GPU at all, and Raja deserves credit for delivering a part that does compete reasonably well, given that a price drop is all AMD would really need to sell a much better performance-per-dollar ratio than Nvidia’s higher-end cards. AMD took a beating for years over its erratic frame timing compared with Nvidia, but Vega reviews have shown that this problem is largely in the past. In some cases, AMD cards are actually smoother. But again, expectations were extremely high for Vega, and the GPU didn’t deliver the knockout punch that investors and enthusiasts expected.

We’ve long speculated that HBM2’s difficult ramp may have played a part in this, but ultimately it doesn’t matter. Vega may be a contender, but it wasn’t a knock-out. It’s an architecture AMD can build on (and is building on, given the recent deal with Intel), but it didn’t vault AMD back into the driver’s seat.

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