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May 5, 1994

SUN DECIDES TO SPREAD THE SPARC CHIP DEVELOPMENT LOAD WITH FUJITSU

By CBR Staff Writer

As reported briefly last week (CI No 2,403), Sun Microsystems Inc has aligned with Fujitsu Ltd last week to defend Sun’s Sparc line in the coming chip wars. Sun wants it to be the dominant chip for distributed client-server applications. The two have signed a memorandum of understanding that will see them co-ordinate their Sparc development plans and jointly spend at least $500m over the next five years on their efforts – but none of that is new money. The deal took two and a half years to put together and is still only a skeleton. The two companies were not specific about their precise goals for the silicon, saying they were six months away from disclosing what will essentially be a new more competitive Sparc road map, complete with performance targets and availability dates affecting all Sparc species. Sun did, however, say that no current projects would be disrupted. Fujitsu and Sun will not co-develop chips, but maintain independent design teams (they have three each) sharing information if for no other reason than to avoid overlap. To accommodate this new intimacy, the companies will exchange patent rights in what they call areas of computer technology. The companies said the project still had to be defined in terms of how to build chips, which ones to build, what software to use and how to obtain it. Their unified road map is to provide for enhanced 32-bit and 64-bit microprocessors that range from two to four times the performance of whatever is currently available from Intel Corp, goals Sun set for itself last year. The firms suggested they will not attempt to leapfrog beyond the performance goal already hinted at for the UltraSparc-III. However, enhanced floating point performance, critical to technical markets, is a particular goal for several of the Sparc processors. It is also believed they will focus on packaging issues, integration and low-cost implementation. They also promise to accelerate Wabi performance, largely via software techniques. To solidify the agreement, Fujitsu extended its existing reseller deal with Sun, the largest contract in Sun’s history, for another five years. Sun, in turn, buys semiconductors and peripherals from Fujitsu. The deal will apparently not impact Texas Instruments, which manufactures MicroSparcs and SuperSparcs.

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