Bechtolsheim: One reason I left in 1995 is that one of my concerns at the time was that we should be really building an x86-based server, and I was getting worried that the cost performance of those systems was edging up with the SPARC architecture. Here I am 10 years later or 12 years later actually doing what I suggested the company should be doing earlier.... People keep asking was this like a prearranged marriage? But the honest truth was I had no idea I would be coming back to Sun. I was actually happy building this [sort of] little business, but when Sun decided to enter the industry-standard market, it became an opportunity to build a much more significant business here. So that's why I'm back here.
InfoWorld: Were you the founder of the SPARC architecture?
Bechtolsheim: What happened is Bill, even though he was really the software guy, became convinced in, I think it was 1984, that Motorola and the whole microprocessor architecture they were using, which was the 68000, was just not keeping up, or not taking advantage of what the technology could do. And after some interesting investigations, we concluded that we might as well design our own architecture, which was, for a small startup company, quite the bold thing to do. What was correct about this was it gave us a performance lead for many, many years, and then [we grew] the company to many, many billion dollars. So it was actually a very successful decision. Now, I was not involved in the original SPARC chip design. However, I was involved in the design of SPARCstation 1, which was really the first high-volume product around SPARC, which was a pizza-box workstation that was launched in 1989. And that was actually Sun's best-selling product for a while, and that was followed by the SPARCstation 2 and 10 and 20. And then I guess I got a little tired of doing all these workstations, so I decided there was a new opportunity in gigabit networking. But now I do see an opportunity back in the server space, and that's why I'm back here.
InfoWorld: Do you think SPARC has much of a future at this point?
Bechtolsheim: Well, it's the mainstream of the company. In fact, it's growing again. And the price performance and power efficiency of these multithreaded architectures is quite compelling. Now, having said that, it is Solaris-only, so it defines the Solaris market, whereas the industry-standard architecture of course runs Linux as well as Windows. From a volume perspective, the industry's architecture is way ahead. But we have a number of very loyal SPARC customers, and we don't see a reason to switch anytime soon, so we will keep investing in SPARC as long as that makes sense.
InfoWorld: Would you say that Sun has righted the ship? I remember quarter after quarter after quarter where Sun was just getting bigger and bigger. And then during dot.com bust, Sun, like everybody else, slipped. Would you say that you righted the ship with the open-sourcing of Solaris and Java and that sort of thing? And also, what is your take on the open-sourcing of Java? I don't know if you ever actually publicly stated it.