Fujitsu in, TI Out in SPARC Deal

MENLO PARK, Calif. — The future of Sun’s SPARC-based processors will no longer include longtime partner Texas Instruments (TI) .

Santa Clara, Calif.-based Sun said it has inked a long-term contract with Fujitsu Microelectronics to build on its 20-year partnership around next generation 64-bit RISC processors, a pillar of Sun’s hardware strategy.

Sun, which recently abandoned future plans for its UltraSPARC V (code-named Millennium) and Gemini (based on two UltraSPARC II cores) chips has now augmented its roadmap with Niagara and Rock processor families (currently provided by TI) with a new Advanced Product Line or APL systems scaling from 1-way to multi-way servers. While not completely replacing Texas-based TI’s projects, it does start a process in phasing them out as a long-term development partner.

Fujitsu and Sun said they will bring together Fujitsu’s SPARC64 and Sun’s UltraSPARC product lines by mid-2006. Both chips are based on Sun’s open SPARC V9 instruction set architecture. The new data center systems family will include Sun’s Sun Fire hardware and Fujitsu’s PRIMEPOWER products.

“We wanted to focus on the commonality and the strength of our product lines,” Sun CEO Scott McNealy said during a press conference at the company’s offices here. “But make no mistake, we are not looking for check, we are looking for checkmate.”

Sun said it also wanted to switch to 3-year product cycles instead of longer ones used by Intel’s Itanium, for example. Andy Ingram, Sun’s vice president of scalable systems, said the company had identified about 14 different workload models that APL will help address.

“Niagara is good for systems that face the network and then you have Rock that will be for data-facing systems,” he said. “APL products will be designed more for the more traditional SMP designs with the same space and same design point.”

Sun and Fujitsu have been working on joint 90-nanometer production. The
deal give Sun a valuable channel to resell its 64-bit architecture outside its own channels including to network equipment makers like Cisco or Juniper . While McNealy said the joint R&D with Fujitsu helps his company align Sun’s Now Sun will have R&D partnerships with AMD, Fujitsu and TI.

“Sun is trying to expand their total available market by leveraging their R&D dollars in microprocessor development and this helps them compete with rivals with very deep pockets like IBM and Intel,” Jean Bozman, IDC vice president of research said. “Sun and Fujitsu are still going to compete in this market, but you are essentially partnering the number three and number five server sales leaders.”

Sun said the ultimate goal is to sell systems using SPARC chips running Solaris and Java Enterprise Systems Web stack.

Sources close to the deal said Sun had been having issues Dallas-based TI in getting its UltraSPARC III business up to speed. That, combined with TI’s continued focus on consumer electronics such as Palm-based devices and cell
phones, contributed to the mutual split.

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