I met Renee James more than a couple of decades ago, when she was the technical assistant to then Intel CEO Andy Grove, one of the legendary leaders of Silicon Valley. She kept notes on what she learned from Grove, and she rose through the ranks to become president of the world’s biggest chip maker. But she left Intel and the spotlight in February 2016.
And now she’s back, as the CEO of Ampere, a new ARM-based chip company financed by the Carlyle Group. Ampere has hundreds of chip designers making server chips based on the ARM architecture that powers the world’s smartphones. The company promises to give Intel some serious competition in the sweet spot of the server market. The ARM-based chips have 32 cores and will run at speeds above 3 gigahertz on 125 watts of power. It’s a serious effort to provide an alternative form of computing in data centers with different kinds of work loads.
It’s a very ambitious plan, but James said in an interview with VentureBeat that she drew inspiration from her former mentor, Grove, before he passed away in March 2016.
“I remember every word he ever uttered,” she said. “In fact, he and I discussed this before he passed away. He said to me, ‘There’s a lot of easier businesses in the world than this one, but this is worthy.’ I remember everything he taught me, or I wouldn’t be doing this.”
James, who after leaving Intel took a job at the investment company Carlyle Group and is now heading Ampere, isn’t going head-on against Intel, which has 99 percent of the server chip market according to market researcher IDC. But she believes the market…