Last week, Intel confirmed the hire of John Sell after a change of his LinkedIn status. The 14-year Microsoft engineer has been the architect of Xbox One, Scorpio, and Scarlett SoC's, coming origins at Apple and AMD.
Thanks to a VentureBeat interview, we have more information about Sell's move, including why he left his enviable position.
“Well, Intel presented me with a really exciting opportunity. I was not, honestly, out looking,” he said. “I'm very excited, very bullish on Microsoft and the things I was doing there. It is true that my work on the coming Xbox was mostly done. To be leading something as important as security at a company as important as Intel is a pretty exciting opportunity.”
This statement alone contains some interesting tidbits. Sell has confirmed that his work on Xbox Scarlett is essentially over. At this stage, you'd hope that's the case, but it's nice to have confirmation. More interesting is the fact Intel approached Sells, rather than the other way around, and offered him an opportunity interesting enough to leave a company he's dedicated to.
Under his new position, Sell will be chief security architect, presiding under chief architect Raja Koduri. His goal will be to set up a long-term security strategy for the company, while working on more pressing short-term issues.
Creating a Security-first Culture
Security is something that's come to bite Intel in recent years, its Meltdown and Spectre flaws getting widespread media coverage and causing issues months past their initial software patches.
Sell says he's been dabbling in chip security in Xbox for up to 10 years, and part of his plan at Intel is to introduce a new culture.
One of the things that I'll be doing here is striving to have a security design culture here, if you will, so that we anticipate the kinds of problems that can occur and minimize the chance of having them,” John Sell said. “…a lot can be done in just structuring and designing security-critical components of our CPUs and other devices so that they're inherently resistant.”
Though Sells only changed his LinkedIn page recently, he's actually been at Intel for several months. Among other things, Intel is looking at how AI could help in the day-to-day of such work.
With Xbox behind him, Sell also gave a relatable tidbit about his experience with the device.
“To be honest, I really only got into playing games when they were creating a problem for the hardware. I'm just not very good at it,” he explained. “…I'm good at designing the systems for them, but I'm not very good at playing them.