When Oracle acquired SUN Microsystems, many feared that the new parent company would move to discontinue major projects which the latter had been working on prior to the buyout. Now, it seems that their fears were not unfounded, because it is believed that Oracle had scrapped a daring chip project by SUN to clone Intel’s server processors for use in cloud services.
Read on to find out more.
When it comes to x86 (or x64) processors, who do you usually look for? Yep, you go knocking on Intel’s or AMD’s doors asking for a quote, enter a few rounds of negotiations and query about the date the shipment is expected to arrive. Others might decide to go with cost-saving, low power alternatives and give VIA Technologies a ring instead. Either way, choices are fairly limited: there are only three choices to choose from, and one has a market share which is so small that many would not have probably even heard of it.
And the bad news was that there could have been another player to choose from in the x86 chip market. In fact, the plans, talent and facilities to produce another x86 chip were all already in place to do so. That is, until Oracle came along and bought the whole of SUN Microsystems in one of the most groundbreaking acquisitions last year.
Now, you might probably be scratching your head, wondering what does SUN, well known for its SPARC processors, have to do with anything that is remotely related with x86 processors. The answer may come as something of a surprise, but the company has long had an ambitions plan to clone Intel’s server processors for use in low-power, web-centric servers. And it might have actually pulled it off.
But before anyone thinks that the project was scrapped because of interventions by Intel, let it be known that the project’s downfall was not caused by any external factors. No, the bottleneck in this case came from within SUN, or rather, the new parent company Oracle. According to sources interviewed by The New York Times, Oracle had no plans to go ahead with the hush-hush x86 project after the acquisition and thus scrapped the program, a fate which earlier befell SUN’s future UltraSPARC chip, one of its most major projects before the buyout.
Which, when one thinks about it, was a real pity: not only did SUN have the experience and know-how needed to design server-grade processors, it had also been been scouting and hiring x86 talents, with The New York Times reporting that the company had managed to sway top talent from AMD over to their fold.
Of course, even if the x86 clone was to be a success, there would also be the problem of having to deal with Intel, who holds the rights to the x86 architecture. However, that might have been the least of SUN’s worries, as the company had its own impressive processor-related patent portfolio and would have most likely used it as a bargaining chip to win an x86 licence from the chip giant.
Anyway, all things said and done, the fact that the project has been scrapped will no doubt be a major cause for disappointment to those who were hoping for a potential ‘Intel-killer’ processor from an alternative supplier. Looks like enterprises needing to go processor shopping for their new server will probably have to get used to knocking on the doors of Intel, AMD or VIA for the foreseeable future.
Source: The New York Times