AMD hires former Oak Ridge chief to punt AI to governments

You get a 'sovereign' AI, and you get a 'sovereign' AI, everybody gets a 'sovereign' AI

AMD is betting that it can get governments and other public bodies to sign off on investment in AI infrastructure by enlisting the former head of America's prestigious Oak Ridge National Laboratory research center.

The chip biz has hired American computer scientist Thomas Zacharia to serve as senior vice president of strategic technology partnerships and public policy.

His role is to lead a global expansion of AMD's relationships with governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other customers to fast-track the deployment of "customized AMD-powered AI solutions."

Zacharia is described as a distinguished industry leader with extensive experience in scientific research, technology development, public policy and strategic public/private partnerships. He was formerly director at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the federal funded research and development center in Tennessee that conducts nuclear research, among other things. As such, he is sure to have a bulging contact book.

Coincidentally, Oak Ridge is also the home of the AMD-powered Frontier supercomputer, the world's first exascale system, and so Zacharia not only has knowledge of high performance computing, but AMD's HPC kit. Oak Ridge also has a number of AI programs, primarily focused on the safety, trustworthiness and energy efficiency of AI and its applications in scientific discovery and national security.

"After spending 35 years at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, I knew I wanted to apply my experience and capabilities to help drive the adoption of HPC and AI technologies to make a positive impact for the globe," Zacharia said in a statement.

"Now I get to leverage my extensive experience in science, AI and public policy, while working with the amazing AMD team to create impactful technologies and solutions that will make a global impact for countries and organizations around the world," he added.

And no doubt he'll be paid handsomely for it.

Part of Zacharia's role will be to promote sovereign AI deployments, an idea also floated recently at a conference by Jensen Huang, Nvidia boss.


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Huang said that sovereign AI refers to a nation's ability to harness artificial intelligence using its own compute infrastructure and resources, rather than relying on others, and called on governments to make the necessary investments for sovereign AI.

AMD CEO Lisa Su naturally welcomed Zacharia's appointment. "As the former director of the largest multi-program science and energy research lab in the US, Thomas is uniquely positioned to leverage his extensive experience advancing the frontiers of science and technology, to help countries around the world deploy AMD-powered AI solutions for the public good,” she said. And AMD's good, of course. ®

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