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AMD shutters German Linux lab, gives devs the axe

Kernel contributors sent packing

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Updated Struggling chipmaker AMD has shut down its Dresden, Germany-based Operating System Research Center (OSRC), handing pink slips to most of its Linux kernel developers in the process.

Rumors of the site's closure had been bouncing around the open source community for several days, owing in part to ominous posts to Linux kernel development mailing lists. At the LinuxCon Europe conference on Wednesday, reporters for The H were able to confirm that AMD has indeed shut down OSRC and dismissed its entire staff of around 25.

According to the OSRC website, which was still online as of Wednesday, the center was a global research organization that acted as a bridge between the OS development community and the worldwide AMD processor design community.

Naturally, much of that activity focused on Linux. OSRC developers had contributed code designed to optimize the Linux kernel for 64-bit AMD server chips, in addition to helping develop the Xen virtual machine hypervisor.

In fact, with the closure of OSRC, AMD has reportedly let go nearly all of its developers who have made recent code contributions to the Linux kernel, leaving the future of AMD processors as a first-class platform for Linux uncertain.

According to reports, only one small division of open source developers has been spared, with the team that develops open source drivers for AMD's graphics processors and APUs (accelerated processing units) unaffected by the closure.

The move comes as AMD attempts to tighten its belt following a gruesome earnings report for its third quarter of 2012. Among other cost-cutting measures, the chipmaker has vowed to reduce its global workforce by 15 per cent by the end of the year.

At first blush, pulling out of Linux kernel development would seem like a poor way to achieve that goal. But AMD has also recently announced an ambitious new strategy to deliver low-power server chips based on the ARM architecture, which will likely require it to retool its software efforts to match.

In addition, AMD remains a Gold member of the nonprofit Linux Foundation, which suggests that its involvement with the open source OS is far from over. ®

Update

After The Reg went to press, a representative from AMD reached out to clarify the situation in Dresden. According to the email from AMD's Mike Silverman, the OSRC site has indeed been closed, but although AMD has not announced any specific plans, Silverman says its Linux kernel efforts will soldier on:

As announced during our last financial earnings results on October 18th 2012, AMD is restructuring its business and building a more efficient operating model. As consequence and as part of a global reduction in workforce, AMD GmbH is closing its operations in Dresden, including its Operating System Research Center (OSRC) as part of a full site closure at this location. We will continue to support the Linux kernel, and the software development work happening at the OSRC is being consolidated and will be performed at other AMD locations.

I would like to emphasize that AMD’s decision is not a reflection on the outstanding strengths of Dresden and the mutually beneficial relationship AMD and Dresden continue to share, but was merely driven by business realties on a global scale. As a matter of fact, AMD continues to manufacture a bulk of its global microprocessor production in Dresden, and we continue to work closely with our foundry partner there – Globalfoundries – on improving manufacturing and design excellence.

'Nuff said.

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