Sun, AMD Chiefs See Better Times Ahead

Sun's McNealy and AMD's Ruiz talk about recent moves their companies have made that they believe will lead to brighter days.

Sun Microsystems Inc. and Advanced Micro Devices Inc., have had their challenges over the past couple of years, but last week the heads of each Silicon Valley stalwart announced news that could lead to brighter days. Sun, of Santa Clara, Calif., unveiled a major customer win with China, along with innovative new technologies, and AMD, of Sunnyvale, Calif., announced a major new OEM for its 64-bit Opteron processor: Sun. eWEEK Editor in Chief Eric Lundquist and Technology Editor Peter Coffee sat down with Sun founder Scott McNealy and AMD CEO Hector de Ruiz last week at Comdex in Las Vegas to get the inside stories of both announcements.

Scott, with [last weeks] announcement of Sun machines using the Opteron processor, Sun and AMD have the compatibility story while Microsoft [Corp.] and Intel [Corp.] are trying to sell the Itanium great leap forward. Can you tell me the top three reasons why the compatibility story is the one to be telling?

McNealy: Well, you know the x86 stuff better than I do, but many people have tried to do other architectures. Heck, Intel has tried three times over the last 20 years, with the 432, the 860, other things. They keep coming back to compatibility.

I think the [Intel IA-64] strategy was to try to get [Hewlett-Packard Co.] to give up on [Precision Architecture], which they succeeded in doing—but I think today, if youre Hewlett-Packard and you look at Sun and IBM doing Opteron, I would think youve got to go, "Whoops!"

Can you give us some idea of the performance levels youre reaching with the Opteron?

McNealy: Come see our product launches. Our guys are over the moon with excitement.

More than youve seen them in the past?

McNealy: Oh, yeah.

Whats the next range of products that well see built around this in the next 12 months? Give us some milestones to keep our eye on.

McNealy: Well, thats future stuff, but there are two dimensions: You can look at the product side, or you can look at the technology side. As far as the technology goes, were looking at 90-nanometer process technology in the near future, then following shortly to 65 nanometers. Thats the plan.

On the product side, our plans are to continue to build up the performance. Internally we call it K9—but its not a dog, its a system. Well wind up with a range of products and well continue to improve their capability.

The China contract to adopt the Java Desktop System—whats the impact of that?

McNealy: Were talking half a million to a million desktops in the next year, with the Chinese government thinking in the long run in terms of half a billion desktops.

Next page: JDS adoption: Microsoft-driven?