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Sun Tapped for DARPA Duties

Santa Clara, Calif.-based Sun Microsystems, Inc. announced Wednesday that it has been awarded a 12-month contract by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop technology solutions for future Department of Defense needs.

Sun was invited by DARPA in October to develop studies on the architecture of future high-performance computers along with four competitors: Hewlett-Packard , IBM , Silicon Graphics (SGI), and Cray Inc. .

Sun's contract with DARPA is part of the High Productivity Computing Systems (HPCS) program, a three-part, eight-to-ten-year initiative DARPA undertook earlier this year to develop future super computing resources for U.S. defense and intelligence.

The end result of the HPCS program will be to engineer and build a next-generation high computing machine, said Sun, but it has not yet been determined which of the five technology giants DARPA has chosen will spearhead the final and most important phase of the HPCS project.

During the first phase, Sun, HP, IBM, SGI, and Cray will simultaneously develop their own solutions for DARPA's next-generation super computing endeavor. However, by Phase II of the project, which will entail 36 months of research and development, one or two of those companies will not be invited to proceed with the program.

Phase III will entail 48 months of product development.

The HPCS program is intended to create new generations of high-end programming environments, software tools, architectures, and hardware components in order to bridge the gap between today's super computers and next-generation hardware and software computing systems.

According to HPCS's mission statement: "High performance computing is at a critical juncture. Over the past three decades, this important technology area has provided crucial superior computational capability for many important national security applications. Unfortunately, current trends in commercial high performance computing, future complementary metal oxide semiconductor technology challenges, and emerging threats are creating technology gaps that threaten continued U.S. superiority in important national security applications."

Sun was chosen to participate in the program in part for its interest in using Java Programming Language and Java Virtual Machine with the Java HotSpot compiler as a basis for conducting programming language research.

"Because of the semantics of the Java language, program analysis and compiler technologies will lead to more efficient data movement and thread management. An even greater level of performance might also be achieved if the machine design supports the program analysis and compiler technologies," said James Gosling of Sun Laboratories.

According to the terms of the contract, Sun Scientists and engineers will work in collaboration with scientists from the Information Science Institute at the University of Southern California to provide HPCS with next-generation systems in areas such as weather and ocean forecasting; analysis of circulation patterns and the dispersal of airborne vectors; cryptanalysis; weapons, survivability and stealth design; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; and emerging biotechnology.

By the end of April 2003, each of the five candidates are expected to present proposals to DARPA based on their research.

Established in 1958, DARPA is a U.S. Department of Defense agency responsible for developing new technology for the military.