Sun puts co-founder back to work

Outbound Joy passes inbound Bechtolsheim

Sun Microsystems acquired one of its co-founders in a deal structured around a ham sandwich.

Andy Bechtolsheim - employee #1 and the man who hired Scott McNealy - and his start-up Kealia will now become part of Sun, the companies announced Tuesday. Scott McNealy said the idea for an acquisition came up during a recent lunch with Bechtolsheim and other co-founders Bill Joy and Vinod Khosla. Financial terms, other than the sandwich, were not released.

A giddy McNealy introduced Bechtolsheim during a Sun conference here.

Kealia has been working on Opteron server designs, primarily thin 1U and 2U systems. The idea is to use the Kealia kit to quickly build out Sun's fledgling Opteron server line. Sun's first ever Opteron box - the dual-processor V20z - was unveiled today. Sun plans to release Opteron workstations, a 4 processor box and larger SMP systems over time.

Bechtolsheim's hiring conjured up an uncomfortable nostalgia among Sun employees. During a cocktail hour with Sun folk, we were told that e-mail servers all around the Sun nation would be humming once news of the stealth deal hit.

One Sun staffer was also heard to remark that Bechtolsheim would "actually do some work, unlike that Joy guy." It is believed that Joy was asked to do an Opteron server design, only the "Edison of the Internet" presented a diagram of two strangely insectoid turtles copulating, surrounded by masses of grey goo. This left the Sun boardroom stunned and confused, but confirmed Joy's genius.

Out-of-control nanomatter was not, we understand, considered a design constraint by Bechtolsheim's team.

Aside from the acquisition news, Sun also kicked off a new promotion for its Opteron kit.

Sun launched an installment plan pricing model for the V20z in which developers can pay $1,499 a year for three years and receive the server and Sun's entire developer and enterprise software stacks.

"The beauty is . . . you pay less cash than you would for the software alone, and you get the hardware at no extra charge," McNealy said. "Let's see Microsoft do that . . . or let's see Dell do that."

Sun also cut the price of its N1 product line in half from $2,000 to $1,000 for an average-sized customer. ®

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