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Co-founder Returns to Sun

Co-founder Returns to Sun

Sun CEO Scott McNealy went to a reunion-style meal with the now scattered founders of Sun, Bill Joy, Vinod Khosla and Andy Bechtolsheim, and when he got up from the table he had bought Bechtolsheim's latest stealth-mode start-up Kealia Inc, a company whose Web site only gives directions to its offices in Palo Alto.

The last company Sun bought off Bechtolsheim was the German outfit that wrote StarOffice.

Now the inventor of the workstation - for those too young to remember Sun and Unix cut their teeth on workstations - is returning to Sun to design boxes, both Sparc and Opteron widgets, largely Opteron. After nearly 10 years away, his return is practically Homeric. Like Odysseus returning to Ithaca.

Since leaving Sun Andy's adventures have included starting an outfit called Granite Systems, selling it to Cisco for $220 million, running the gigabit Ethernet switch piece of Cisco and leaving there a few months ago to join Kealia, which, by all reports, was supposed to be doing some kind of big fat convergence-style distributed video server and storage. It now appears it may have been using Opterons.

Scott and Andy sidestepped public questions about what Kealia's been up to at Sun's quarterly product debut on Tuesday, where Scott paraded his latest acquisition.

McNealy raved about the "power and elegance" of Andy's workstation and single-board designs and suggested he would produce 1Us, 2Us and 4Us and an Opteron workstation.

Sun is putting together the low-end Opteron servers that it's supposed to start delivering next month out of "industry-standard components." Bechtolsheim's designs will replace them. How quickly, however, remains a mystery. McNealy credited Andy with making "Ferraris out of off-the-shelf parts."

Andy was persuaded to scoff at Intel's Itanium "1% market share compared to the Sparc" and Scott remarked about Bechtolsheim's contempt for Itanium that Andy "seldom guesses wrong." Andy is supposed to be very committed to the Opteron as are many Sun people apparently.

Once the Kealia deal closes sometime between now and the end of June, the 58-man Kealia, which in real life is a site in Maui, will become the Advanced Systems Technology Group inside Sun's Volume Systems Products unit. Bechtolsheim will become a senior VP and chief architect of Volume Systems Products, reporting to executive VP Neal Knox. Bechtolsheim will also join Sun's Executive Management Group led by McNealy.

Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed but it's supposed to be a stock deal.

With Bechtolsheim back, Opteron box designer Newisys' future possibilities, which were once thought might include Sun, are kinda what one might call "limited."

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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