Co-Founder Returns To Sun - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Software // Enterprise Applications
02:49 PM

Co-Founder Returns To Sun

Bechtolsheim could help computer maker sell less-expensive systems that use Opteron chip and Linux

Andy Bechtolsheim is rejoining Sun Microsystems, the company he co-founded with Scott McNealy, Bill Joy, and Vinod Khosla in 1982. Bechtolsheim, 48, returns as a senior VP and chief architect after Sun bought Kealia Inc., another company he founded. Bechtolsheim recently spoke with InformationWeek senior writer Aaron Ricadela about the sale of Kealia and his upcoming work at Sun, including the move to the Opteron chip.

InformationWeek: You're taking on a job as chief architect for volume systems at Sun. What will that work entail?

Andy Bechtolsheim is rejoining Sun Microsystems

Kealia's technology will appear in Sun products, Bechtolsheim says

Photo by John Todd
Bechtolsheim: We hope to bring to Sun an acceleration of its expansion beyond Sparc into Opteron and into all things Linux. This [Sparc] market has been an unbelievable success for Sun. However, it isn't the entire market--there's also x86. It's definitely the Opteron angle that got us involved here.

InformationWeek: What were you working on at Kealia?

Bechtolsheim: I founded that company in 2001, even before Opteron came out. We spent a year-plus evaluating potential designs. It's a design company; we never shipped a product but had prototypes of Opteron systems.

The Sun thing happened fairly quickly, but the work at Kealia had been going on for several years. Kealia had 59 employees, including me, all engineers. The only investor was myself. It was a stealth company--the company never made any press releases or announcements. We'd been working on horizontally scalable systems. On day 1, the company worked on media servers, which is a scalable kind of architecture. Everybody will come to Sun; that's the engineering team.

InformationWeek: So how was Kealia's technology different from that of other computer companies that have brought products to market using Opteron chips?

Bechtolsheim: We can't say--the technology will be appearing when the products come to market. Sun has only said it will announce something in the next few quarters. What I can say is that everything from CPU performance to I/O to networking is being upgraded a lot faster; we'll update these systems every six to nine months.

And the volume opportunity is the interesting angle. The secret to life here is efficiency. We're trying to do a whole lineup of machines in a way that enables customers to get investment protection and upgrades. It's a whole new design style to make life more efficient in the computer business. Not that Sun hasn't tried this in the past, but CPU upgradability is very important, of course. With PCI Express, 10-Gigabit Ethernet, and other technologies coming, there are many things customers have a rightful expectation these systems will support.

InformationWeek: What computing jobs will customers want to buy Sparc systems for, then, versus x86-based computers?

Bechtolsheim: Sun dominated with technical workstations in the '90s. More recently, many customers have looked at Linux on x86 as their preferred solution in traditional engineering scientific markets. This is a market where I believe Sun will be very successful with Opteron but more likely on the Linux front. You could call this a technical early-adopter market.

But in traditional business markets--financial services, airlines, insurance--those aren't the kinds of customers that want to buy the latest version of Linux that's changing every six months. Those are the companies that really want stability, and Solaris does very well there. With Opteron, for the same cost of hardware, you can run Linux free with no support, pay for Red Hat Linux, or pay for Windows. What will really be apparent very shortly is that Windows will be the most expensive, supported Red Hat Linux will fall in the middle, and Solaris will be the lowest cost.

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
COVID-19: Using Data to Map Infections, Hospital Beds, and More
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor, Enterprise Apps,  3/25/2020
Enterprise Guide to Robotic Process Automation
Cathleen Gagne, Managing Editor, InformationWeek,  3/23/2020
How Startup Innovation Can Help Enterprises Face COVID-19
Joao-Pierre S. Ruth, Senior Writer,  3/24/2020
White Papers
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
Current Issue
IT Careers: Tech Drives Constant Change
Advances in information technology and management concepts mean that IT professionals must update their skill sets, even their career goals on an almost yearly basis. In this IT Trend Report, experts share advice on how IT pros can keep up with this every-changing job market. Read it today!
Flash Poll