Sun's Acquisitions Key To New Architecture

Vendor buys technology to bring N1 engineering plan to get it to market faster.
Sun Microsystems is buying key technology for its N1 engineering project so it can get products to market faster, a company executive says.

In September, Sun bought for an undisclosed amount of cash privately held Terraspring, a software company based in Fremont, Calif., founded by a former Sun engineer. Terraspring's software, which polls computer equipment and applications to create XML models of the connections and resources available to IT managers, will form the basis of Sun's first N1 products, due this year.

Sun has been working on N1, an effort to create a software platform that links components of a data center, much like an operating system links components inside a computer, for four years, says VP Steve MacKay, who heads product development. But Sun recently bought technology important to its plan to get to market faster, MacKay said at a news conference in San Francisco on Monday.

"We have a lot of technology inside Sun," he says. "There are times when there's better technology outside." Terraspring's software is based on XML, which lets users extend its capabilities as they buy new equipment, MacKay adds. Pilots of Sun's N1 "virtualization engine" will continue through the first half of next year, and deployments will come later in the year. "Even though we're in early days, we're not years and years away from rolling something out," he says.

Hewlett-Packard uses an earlier version of Terraspring's software, says Ashar Aziz, Terraspring's former chief technology officer, and a Sun executive.

In September, Sun closed on its acquisition of Pirus Networks, a maker of hardware for data storage. Former CEO Rich Napolitano, now with Sun, says Pirus' technology helps abstract away differences in the way servers communicate with Fibre Channel connected storage area networks and Ethernet connected file systems. The hardware will become the basis for how Sun computers equipped with N1 software communicate with storage subsystems, he says.

In July, Sun bought Afara Websystems--also started by ex-Sun engineers--which makes technology for putting multiple processor cores on the same chip. The technology will help Sun address users' demand for chips that can handle greater amounts of multithreading, or processing multiple streams of an application simultaneously.

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