Sun Microsystems Inc. officials endeavored on Thursday to provide a clearer picture of its SPARC/Solaris development deal with Fujitsu Ltd., saying that combining the companies roadmaps makes sense for the vendors and for their customers.
During a two-hour discussion with analysts and reporters, officials at the Santa Clara, Calif., company said its deal to partner with Fujitsu on developing a joint SPARC/Solaris line of systems may enable Sun to fast-forward plans to release systems based on its Rock processor, due to start appearing in systems a couple of years after the joint line is launched.
“By combining resources, we can, in fact, do it all,” said Andy Ingram, vice president of marketing for Suns Scalable Systems Group. “Between the two companies, we can spend less and do more.”
Sun and Fujitsu last month announced the partnership—a continuation of a 20-year relationship—which had been in the works for about a year. The deal calls for the companies to combine their development efforts and in 2006 release the first in a new line of SPARC/Solaris systems, called the Advanced Products Line, or APL.
The APL family, which would run the upcoming Solaris 10 operating system, would replace Suns Sun Fire products and Fujitsus PrimePower systems.
“APL is Suns product line, [and] APL is Fujitsus product line, starting in 2006,” Ingram said. “This is our core product line.”
For customers, the new line will mean improved price and performance, better technology and a stronger software ecosystem around the SPARC/Solaris platform, they said. For the companies, it will mean reduced spending, a platform that will continue to compete with the likes of Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM and Intel Corp.#151;and less so with itself—and the ability to bring key products to market faster.
Ingram said that given their product roadmaps, it made financial sense for the two companies to combine efforts. Industry observers have said the deal could save Sun as much as $500 million a year in chip and server development costs.
“We were building the exact same thing,” he said. “We have Sun Fire, they have PrimePower. If you line them up, theyre exact replicas of each other.”
In lining up Thursdays meeting, both Ingram and Brian Sutphin, senior vice president of corporate development, said they wanted to clear up some confusion generated by the announcement, particularly around issues of what each company will development and build, and how the relationship will play out.
Ingram said that between now and 2006, the two companies will continue building on their individual roadmaps—Sun with its UltraSPARC IV and IV+ systems, and Fujitsu with its SPARC64 V and V+ servers.
The agreement calls for the APL line to run for about three to five years, with the possibility of continuing the partnership after that, Ingram said. Sun will develop a low-end and midrange line of servers based on its upcoming Niagara chip, the first of its throughput-computing processors that will feature on-chip networking and security features. Throughput computing is designed to enable the simultaneous processing of multiple tasks.
Fujitsu, of Tokyo, will create high-end servers—with up to 64 processors—based on a chip code-named Olympus coupled with an interconnect technology code-named Jupiter, Ingram said. Fujitsu will manufacture those chips, while Sun will continue its partnership with Texas Instruments Inc., which will manufacture Niagara.
The two companies will share sales and marketing costs but will support whatever they sell themselves. In addition, while the APL servers each company sells will be identical, there probably will be differentiators between Sun and Fujitsu in what they offer with the systems, from the storage technology to the services surrounding them.
Suns Rock will be a multithreaded processor that holds many cores on a single piece of silicon, aimed at such jobs as databases and ERP systems. Ingram said Rock will have to wait until Sun enters into a 65-nanometer manufacturing process, but that the partnership with Fujitsu will mean that systems powered by Rock processors could start appearing earlier than initially scheduled, although Ingram declined to give specific dates.
Sun has revamped much of its server roadmap as it pushes its SPARC/Solaris architecture while trying to gain traction in the volume x86 space. The company precipitated the deal with Fujitsu by rolling out UltraSPARC IV in February, and two months later stopping development of UltraSPARC V and another chip, code-named Gemini.
Earlier this year, Sun began rolling out servers powered by Advanced Micro Devices Inc.s 64-bit Opteron chip, which will run both x86 Solaris and Linux. Sun already has the two-way Sun Fire V20z and later this year will introduce a four-way system and blade servers based on Opteron.
The development partnership between Sun and Fujitsu could grow beyond the APL systems, according to Sutphin. The companies have talked about a number of possibilities, including the x86 architecture, although no decisions have been made, he said.