Sun Microsystems is increasing the number of patents its licensing to other vendors.
A May 15 agreement between Sun and ARM Holdings gives the British maker of embedded technology for cell phones and other mobile devices access to "several hundred" of Suns microprocessors patents.
The agreement allows ARM, which is based in Cambridge, England, to begin using Suns patented CMT (chip multithreading), graphics, I/O, memory and power management technology in its own line of embedded processors and other products.
The announcement is the latest for Suns Microelectronics division, which not only creates new technologies for the companys products but also looks to sell patents to other vendors. In addition to ARM, Sun recently signed an agreement to license intellectual property in its Neptune Ethernet technology to Marvell Technology.
The latest agreement also shows that Sun is looking beyond its traditional strengths in the commercial space to leverage its technologies. On May 8, Sun executives at the JavaOne show in San Francisco detailed how the new JavaFX Script, a scripting language for creating rich content and applications, can be used for Java-powered devices such as mobile phones.
Charles King, an analyst with Pund-IT Research, said Sun is trying to trying to keep its UltraSPARC and other technologies viable in much the same way IBM kept its Power Architecture alive through its Power.org Web site and its partnerships with the handheld and gaming industries.
"I dont see it as Sun moving into a position where they are creating products, but its more of Sun looking for partners that can leverage a play in those markets," King said. "I think a company like Sun is looking for partners who can tweak the technology in a new way for customers in new markets, and what area of technology is growing faster than the handset market?"
Marc Tremblay, chief technology officer and chief architect of Suns Microelectronics division, said that within the embedded space, Suns CMT and multicore technology would be a logical choice for companies looking to develop product infrastructure that requires lower power and higher performance.
CMT is a feature that allows the CPU to run multiple threads in parallel, which provides higher throughput for multithreaded applications. In its current line of server processors, the UltraSPARC T1 offers four threads per core. The soon-to-be-released Niagara 2 processor doubles the threading, offering eight threads per core. Both processors offer eight cores per chip.
"When you look at it, you have a lot of the same power issues and the desire for higher performance in the embedded world," Tremblay said. "We think that its an area that can really benefit from multicore and multithreaded technology."
The financial details of the agreement between Sun, which is based in Santa Clara, Calif., and ARM were not disclosed.