Intel's senior vice president and boss of its server division relaxed his guard at an open meeting at Stanford University recently - and criticised one of his company's flagship products, as well as Bill Gates. Oh, and he dissed chief rival AMD as well, but that's to be expected.
Heads of corporations the size of Intel rarely go off-piste, but Gelsinger appears to have done so on this occasion, maybe because it's his alma mater - although he never did finish the PhD he started there - and he felt he was among friends.
Starting with Itanium, the technologically advanced but sales-challenged top-end server processor, Gelsinger reportedly said: "I have not in my career been an Itanium advocate," implying what most industry observers have been saying for years. He described running the Itanium business as "an interesting exercise."
Bizarrely, he then launched into fantasy land, saying that sales of Itanium had taken off, that demand was strong and that "everybody on the planet has lined up to build their mainframe replacement behind it."
This flies in the face of the latest sales figures from Gartner showing that HP has captured 90 percent of the Itanium server business. HP was, remember, a co-conspirator in the development of the Itanium, and the only major server vendor left selling them. While it sold 7,200 Itanium boxes last year, the second-placed Itanium vendor is SGI. It has just filed for bankruptcy protection, having sold just 230 Itanium boxes last year. Other vendors trail into sales insignificance after that.
Then Gelsinger laid into the software business, saying that the software industry could not keep up with the progress being made in hardware. Specifically, he cited a discussion with Bill Gates about multi-core chips. Adding cores is now the way the processor industry boosts performance, with all chipmakers acknowledging that the days of cranking up the clock speed are over, due to heat and power problems.
Gates could not, apparently, believe this when Gelsinger discussed it with him a couple of years ago. He called for faster chips and allegedly said: "We can't write software to keep up with [multi-core]." After reciting this anecdote at the Stanford meeting, Gelsinger said: "I won't say anything derogatory about how they design their software, but..."
Gelsinger also laid into AMD, saying that Intel's approach of boosting the speed of the front-side bus and enlarging memory caches was a better approach than his rival's trumpeted on-chip memory controller, which runs at chip speed. Then he said that Intel would "do it at some point," acknowledging that HyperThreading, which was dropped on the introduction of dual-core processors, would make a reappearance.
There's more on Gelsinger's speech here.