The Man Behind 'Sandy Bridge'
CEO Paul Otellini said it is the company's most important processor yet (but then he said the same about Silverthorne as well) and it may be a good idea to see where this chip is coming from - meet Ron Friedman.
I have always enjoyed looking into the people behind that somewhat stiff and cold blue Intel logo. A few years, I spoke with Mooly Eden, the guy who brought Intel Banias and the turnaround from the gigahertz race in 2006. Intel seems to have picked up the idea with Sandy Bridge and posted a brief Q&A with Ron Friedman, who is vice president and general manager of Intel’s Microprocessor and Chipset Development group responsible for microprocessor design teams in California and Israel. If you were to track down the management for the creation of Sandy Bridge, you would most likely end up with Friedman.
There isn't much technical detail in the article, with the exception that briefly talked about the integration of the CPU and graphics within one core. "As we integrated the graphics and the Intel Architecture on the same die, we had to figure out ways to validate the interactions between the compute core and the graphics — interactions that didn’t exist before, because they had been on two separate dies, Friedman said. "Debugging got much more complex, too. That’s because when you have functions on multiple dies, you have more interfaces exposed outside the silicon, which makes it easier to debug. When you are integrating everything on one die, you improve the cost and power envelopes — but the debug gets harder because there are fewer places to test."
The more interesting parts of the interview touch work the different work cultures between Israeli and American design teams and the various ways the same words can be interpreted differently in different countries. As Eden told me before, Friedman also mentioned that people in Israel like to discuss problems much more passionately than we do here in the U.S. where we may interpret such behavior as arguing. Eden told me in 2006 that he is not a friend of the phrase "there is a challenge", when we really aim to say "there is a problem."
"It is a challenge to solve the problem," Eden said back then.
In fact, there may be a deeper connection between Eden and Friedman than Friedman shares in the interview. When asked from where his management experience came from and which people he would consider mentors, he simply noted that he worked with different managers over time. He specifically referred to the Timna processor, an integrated processor design that was scheduled to hit the market in 2000. Back then, Eden was working this project and Friedman said he "was responsible for the design of the second half of the project." (You can read some details about the changed gigahertz race in the interview with Eden.)