Sun Co-Founder Bechtolsheim Departs For Startup

Andy Bechtolsheim is leaving to focus on his latest startup, Arista Networks, which produces a high-speed Ethernet switch for cloud computing.
If it succeeds, Arista might become an acquisition target for Cisco or some other large networking equipment supplier, as Bechtolsheim well knows. His firm, Granite Systems, founded in 1995, was acquired by Cisco in 1996 for $220 million, and Bechtolsheim became head of what would eventually become Cisco's Catalyst product line.

Bechtolsheim was reported to be an early investor in Google, writing out a check on his front steps to "Google Inc." for Larry Page and Sergey Brin for $100,000 as he left for work one morning. The pair hadn't formed a company yet and had no account in which to deposit it. Bechtolsheim confirmed the story in an interview with InformationWeek as he returned to Sun in 2004, saying he recognized immediately that Google was using Internet searches to generate a page-ranking metric, an innovation that he was sure would have a large impact.

Bechtolsheim shows up on the Forbes list of the 691 richest people in the world, ranking 620th and reportedly having a net worth of $1 billion.

He co-founded and co-funds Arista with Stanford professor David Cheriton, a longtime associate, who will serve as its chief scientist. At a panel during VMworld in Los Angeles in 2007, Cheriton asserted that software engineers needed to think more like aeronautical engineers. Once their systems are up and running, they need to keep running, he said.

Arista is giving its switches a version of the Linux operating system that it calls Extensible Operating System. While Linux is heavily modularized, Arista is taking the concept a step further by separating the network state from the switch CPU processing state. It allows greater isolation of independent processes and isolates any system fault to a single module of the operating system. The approach also allows modules to be updated while the system is running without disrupting operations, according to an EOS white paper on Arista's Web site.

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