CEO Gelsinger shakes up Intel

Big changes at Intel include two new business units and splitting of an existing one to focus on data center, networking, and software.

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A new CEO invariably means a reorganization around his/her vision of things and an attempt to address perceived problems in the company’s organizational structure. In hindsight, that’s another clue that Bob Swan wasn’t long for the CEO’s job at Intel, since he never did a reorg.

Pat Gelsinger, who has been Intel’s CEO for just over four months, on the other hand, completely flipped the table with a major reorganization that creates two new business units, promoted several senior technologists to leadership roles, and saw the departure of a major Intel veteran.

The two new units: one for software and the other on high performance computing and graphics. Greg Lavender will serve as Intel’s chief technology officer and lead the new Software and Advanced Technology Group. As CTO, he will head up research programs, including Intel Labs. Lavender comes to Intel from VMware, where he was also CTO, and has held positions Citigroup, Cisco, and Sun Microsystems.

“The one thing about Intel most people don’t realize is they have more software engineers than hardware engineers,” said Bob O’Donnell, chief analyst of TECHnalysis Research. “The software you need to expand IoT and edge and HPC is huge. Placing more organizational emphasis on this can’t do anything but help.”

The other new group is the Accelerated Computing Systems and Graphics Group (AXG), a formalizing of its GPU efforts to take on Nvidia and AMD. The group will be run by Raja Koduri, the ex-AMD GPU veteran who has been heading up the Intel GPU project for a few years now.

Intel’s Data Platform Group will also be restructured into two new business units; the Datacenter and AI group, which will cover the Xeon processor lines as well as Intel’s line of FPGAs, and the Network and Edge Group, which merges the Network Platforms Group, Internet of Things Group, and Connectivity Group into a single business unit. 

Datacenter and AI will be headed up by Sandra Rivera, who was previously head of Intel’s Network Platforms Group. Network and Edge Group will be run by Nick McKeown—founder of Barefoot Networks acquired by Intel two years ago—and one of the most prominent networking executives in the industry.

Veteran Navin Shenoy departs

However, this also means the departure of Navin Shenoy, who has headed up the Data Products Group for some time. Shenoy was active just last week, announcing the IPU processor for intelligent network management at the Six Five Summit, so this was a big shocker.

“He’s been there a long time and was well-liked. Who knows the thinking and rationale behind it. It will be interesting to see how this plays out,” said O’Donnell.

It could very well be an instance where an executive left because they did not get the big chair. (Back when Gelsinger’s appointment to the CEO job was announced, I discussed the potential suitor to take his place at VMware and two analysts predicted the nod would go to COO Sanjay Poonen. I facetiously said that if not, expect his departure shortly thereafter. Well, what happened? Raghu Ragharam got the job in May, and Poonen announced his departure shortly thereafter.)

It happens all the time, and until someone talks, I’m betting that Shenoy decided to look for greener fields after learning he would not replace Swan as Intel’s CEO and simply stayed on for an orderly transition.

All told, Gelsinger has surrounded himself with top-flight technologists. “Gelsinger is an engineering-focused guy and is gonna make decisions around that,” said O’Donnell. “At a high level it all makes sense, but it’s way too early to tell how it will impact product development cycles. I’m sure there was a lot of thought behind it that will make itself known over time.”

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