Oracle Axes Sun Project Darkstar

A week after closing its $7.4 billion deal to buy Sun, Oracle officials have shut down Darkstar, a 10-year-old Sun Labs project designed to create the back-end infrastructure for massively multiplayer online games. The shutting down of Darkstar was announced on the project's community site, though because it is open source, some were hopeful that the project could find a home elsewhere.

With Sun Microsystems now in the fold, Oracle officials are in the process of deciding which Sun projects to continue and which to cancel.

Sun's Project Darkstar, an open-source effort to design a more scalable, flexible and easier-to-program architecture for massively multiplayer online games, is one of the casualties.

The shutting down of the project was announced Feb. 2 on its community forum. In a note on the site, Jim Waldo, a Distinguished Engineer with Sun Labs and the technical lead on Darkstar, said that Sun's Labs would no longer be supporting the project, though suggested there could be a future for the technology.

"We will be maintaining the source repositories and the site for as long as we can, but we are also investigating other homes for both the code and the supporting content," Waldo wrote.

Chris Mellisinos, Sun's chief gaming officer, said on his Facebook page that he was leaving Sun after 16 years. He was a major driving force of the 10-year-old Project Darkstar.

Oracle announced Jan. 27 that it had completed its $7.4 billion acquisition of Sun.

In annual meetings with journalists and analysts to talk about what was going on in the research labs, Sun officials often would point to Darkstar as a project that could one day pay off for the company.

The plan for the software, written in Sun's Java programming language, was to develop a way for developers to more easily create stable and persistent virtual worlds that could quickly scale to millions of game players. Sun Labs officials said during one of these meetings in the company's Burlington, Mass., offices in 2007 that these online games, with thousands-and sometimes millions-of people playing were the future of gaming. A company that had the backend infrastructure that could handle such large numbers of players without causing the game to crash or malfunction would stand to differentiate itself in the highly competitive market.