Microsoft Hires Sun Microsystems' Top Chip Architect

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2009-04-09 Print this article Print

Microsoft scoops up former Sun chip architect Marc Tremblay, in a move that strikes a blow to the besieged software and systems maker and further enriches the software giant. The hire continues Microsoft's New York Yankees-like acquisition of top talent.

Microsoft has scooped up former Sun chip architect Marc Tremblay, in a move that strikes a blow to the besieged software and systems maker and further enriches the software giant.

The New York Times first reported word of Tremblay's departure from Sun to Microsoft, where he will hold the title of distinguished engineer.

In a statement, Sun said:

"Sun can confirm that Marc Tremblay, Sun Fellow and CTO for Microelectronics, has decided to leave the company. Rick Hetherington, who has served as co-CTO for Microelectronics with Tremblay, will assume leadership. We thank Marc for his many contributions over the last eighteen years and wish him all the best in his future endeavors. Hetherington has been with Sun for more than ten years and has served as co-CTO for the Microelectronics business unit for two years. Prior to that he spent sixteen years with Digital Equipment Corp. working on various processors and systems."

According to reports in the Wall Street Journal and other outlets, Tremblay will be joining Microsoft's Strategic Software/Silicon Architectures group, also known as SiArch.

But, you might ask, what would a software company want with somebody like Tremblay?

Well, the WSJ hazards a notion:

"Stepping back, it's easy to see how a person with Tremblay's talents could help the company. Microsoft's Xbox division, for example, has to think about which microprocessors to consider in designing a follow-up to its current gaming console. Its Windows group, meanwhile, has to design new versions of the operating system for the rapid proliferation of chips with many electronic brains rather than one or two."

That seems to be close to the mark. The SiArch group works closely with Microsoft's strategic hardware partners and focuses on areas including parallel computing, green computing and adaptive computing.

A description of the Microsoft SiArch group said SiArch "reports into the Advanced Strategies & Policy division and is chartered with ensuring the success of novel advances in software and hardware by working cross divisionally to develop the Microsoft-wide strategies and build strong relationships with key hardware partners. The team works with the most senior technical and business people at Microsoft at the forefront of the software/hardware innovation areas" and helps set companywide direction.

However you look at it, Microsoft's hire of Tremblay, who worked at Sun for 18 years and helped architect the evolution of the company's SPARC line of processors, is a coup. It is a continuation of Microsoft's New York Yankees-like acquisition of some of the best talent available. In another recent move, Microsoft hired Jonathan Shapiro, a microkernel operating systems expert and professor of computer science at Johns Hopkins University. 

Darryl K. Taft covers the development tools and developer-related issues beat from his office in Baltimore. He has more than 10 years of experience in the business and is always looking for the next scoop. Taft is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and was named 'one of the most active middleware reporters in the world' by The Middleware Co. He also has his own card in the 'Who's Who in Enterprise Java' deck.

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