[FoRK] Bechtolscheim returns to Sun
Rohit at ICS.uci.edu
Thu Feb 12 09:28:26 PST 2004
[Joy out, AndyB in... I can only imagine what straits they'd be in if I
saw VK was going back to clean things up! :-) --RK]
Return of the prodigal Sun
By Stephen Shankland
Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Story last modified February 11, 2004, 1:00 PM PST
SAN FRANCISCO--Nine years after leaving the server maker he co-founded
in 1982, Andy Bechtolsheim is returning to Sun Microsystems.
Scott McNealy, CEO, Sun Microsystems At Sun, Bechtolsheim will pick up
where he left off: designing computers. This time, he'll be working to
share more technology between servers that use Sun's UltraSparc
processors and those using Advanced Micro Devices' Opteron processor,
he said in an interview after a radiant Chief Executive Scott McNealy
welcomed the co-founder back during Sun's analyst conference here.
Not surprisingly, Sun executives were much more enthusiastic in talking
about Bechtolsheim's return than about the 2003 departure of another
co-founder, Bill Joy. "Andy is going to be a resource for every
designer at Sun," McNealy said.
Bechtolsheim, 48, left Sun in 1995 to start Granite Systems, which
built 1-gigabit-per-second networking technology and which Cisco
acquired in 1996. He'll rejoin Sun through its planned acquisition of
Kealia, a start-up that builds Opteron servers. Although Bechtolsheim
co-founded Kealia in 2001, he didn't formally join it until December,
when he left Cisco Systems.
"It's pretty cool to see two pioneers reunite," said Robert Frances
Group analyst Ed Broderick, referring to the two executives. McNealy,
he said, is buying not just Kealia's intellectual property but also "a
Although executives remained mum about Kealia's products and how
they'll fit in at Sun, Bechtolsheim shared his thoughts about his
sudden homecoming with CNET News.com.
Q: Why did you leave Sun?
A: Back then, I saw an opportunity in gigabit Ethernet. I founded a
company Cisco ended up buying. Now, I see an opportunity in servers, of
all things. I think that what has been missing to ignite the market is
the next level of cost performance. As these things come to market,
(customers) will upgrade.
What's different about Sun that you would rejoin the company?
Everybody has a little more gray hair, including myself. But we got
more efficient with age. The new era here is nonreligious. There are
incredible opportunities with Sparc-Solaris and with Linux-Opteron.
It's not exclusionary. That's what made it attractive to me. In the
past, Sun just sold UltraSparc systems, but customers, in the end, want
What will your role be at Sun, and what will you do?
I'll be chief architect of the Volume Systems Products group. I like
efficiency. I think that I can help by making things faster with a
larger group. Neil Knox's Volume Systems Products group is one of the
smallest at Sun. This is all about execution. There's going to be one
chip coming after the next.
At Cisco, you were a networking technology executive, and now, Sun is
bringing more networking into its gear, with its blade servers and with
its planned acquisition of Nauticus. Will you continue that network
work at Sun?
No. That was my previous job.
Will you be picking up the screwdrivers and soldering irons and
building new servers?
I like to work with the engineers and will do so at Sun. Part of
efficiency is that you don't have to reinvent the wheel. Besides
continuing with Opteron work, I'll also closely work with other parts
of Neil's organization. There's a great opportunity to accelerate
You said today that Kealia's systems will be certified to run Windows
as well as Linux and Solaris. Sun won't touch Windows servers with a
10-foot pole. What do you think of selling Windows servers?
It's really hard to add value to Windows. Whatever you add, Microsoft
is going to take away from you.
Linux has opportunities. There are many ways to add value. There are
lots of things Sun customers expect that are missing from Linux.
What is Opteron's performance? Is it easier to design servers with
Opteron than other chips?
Opteron has the industry-leading benchmarks, except for floating-point
mathematical calculations, for which Itanium is faster. If you look at
SPECweb99 or CINT2000, Opteron is the fastest CPU. Advanced Micro
Devices did really well.
What about Opteron system design?
It's fairly straightforward. But you still have to make the right
choices, whether it's two-way (a two-processor server), four-way or
More information about the FoRK