AMD lures high-ranking Itanium designer

Intel loses Samuel Naffziger, a top Itanium engineer, and eight of his colleagues.

Advanced Micro Devices has hired Samuel Naffziger, a high-ranking designer of Intel's Itanium processors, and eight of his Fort Collins, Colo.-based colleagues working on the high-end processor.

Naffziger, one of about 50 at Intel who held the rank of fellow, was director of Itanium circuits and technology. He joined the chipmaker in 2005 when Intel hired Itanium designers from Hewlett-Packard, where Naffziger led the Itanium design team for eight years.

Sam Naffziger Sam Naffziger

At AMD, he is a senior fellow and will work on design development, spokesman Phil Hughes said, declining to share further details about what he or the eight other Itanium engineers will do. Because of a 2003 acquisition, AMD has a design center in Longmont, Colo., not far from Fort Collins.

While not the only high-ranking designer behind the Itanium line--Intel argues it still has a deep bench--Naffziger played a leading role. He introduced two major Itanium models to the world at the International Solid State Circuits Conference, the "McKinley" version in 2002 and "Montecito" in 2005.

Naffziger's departure was reported by Real World Technologies.

Intel has had troubles with Itanium--most recently a delay pushing Montecito from 2005 to the second quarter of 2006, which Pat Gelsinger, Intel's top server executive, acknowledged this month was an "embarrassment." But Intel, HP and other Itanium allies still envision a bright future and are spending billions of dollars to restore Itanium's fortunes. Some of that funding is going to an expansion of Itanium engineering staff, Gelsinger said.

AMD took a different approach. Instead of creating a new, incompatible processor family, it beefed up its existing x86 processor line with features such as 64-bit memory addressing. Intel had for a time reserved that only for Itanium, but eventually added those features to its successful Xeon x86 server chip family.

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