Sun buys Montalvo

Sun just bought Montalvo whose hardware I blogged about some while ago. And just like the Apple acquisition of PA Semi, the question of “why” appears. Some analysts blame the simple fact that both Montalvo and PA Semi simply needed to be acquired, since their venture capitalists did not want to put in the next 100 million USD needed to go to silicon (Montalvo) or really expand on the opportunity already at hand (PA Semi). Here is my crazy guess.

Look at the following:

  • Sun has seen great success with the UltraSparc T line of processors, which are basically “lots of simple cores on a single chip for thread-parallel applications”.
  • Sun is investing in Solaris for x86 and has great success with its x86-based servers (based on AMD processors).
  • Montalvo is building something quite similar to “lots of simple cores on a single chip” for x86. Which should run Solaris-x86 and most other x86 operating systems.
  • Sun has been buying companies and key components for a while now (AMD processors, Fujitsu processors, the company Afara that created the UltraSparc T line).

So my guess is… based purely on technological similarities and no indirect approaches and conspiracy theories. It assumes that Sun does want to make use of Montalvo’s tech as it currently stands:

  • Sun buys Montalvo to build x86-based UltraSparc T-style machines for throughput computing. Nice complement to the current high-single-thread-performance AMD-based x86 machines.

Note 1: The indirect approach theory here is that Sun wants to use Montalvo to put cost pressure on AMD, just like there is speculation that Apple is going to use PA Semi to put cost pressure on Intel.

Note 2: This would also put Sun into direct chip competition with Intel Atom-based designs… which might be slightly less clever. Never mind, do it anyway 🙂

Note 3: I have no insider on anything on this, this is totally based on speculation from public tech facts.

Note 4: Similar ideas are bandied in a rumor comment at VentureBeat from early April 2008:

But Sun could also choose to avoid a fight with Intel, using the patents to protect itself and to employ the techniques for power savings in its own future SPARC microprocessor offerings. Sun’s most ambitious processors already employ many equal-sized cores on a single chip; the asymmetric architecture of Montalvo’s chips might add interesting capabilities to Sun’s SPARC line-up. In any case, Sun could be picking up the assets at a fire sale price and using them for strategic leverage.

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