Licensing deal with Marvell a first for Sun's new unit

Sun Microsystems is licensing 10GB Ethernet technology to Marvell Technology in the first agreement since Sun announced its own Microelectronics group

Sun Microsystems is licensing its multithreaded 10G-byte Ethernet networking technology to Marvell Technology Group in Sun's first deal since creation of a separate Microelectronics group within the company one week ago.

Marvell, a fabless semiconductor firm focused on the consumer, communications and storage sectors, will build and sell high-performance networking products that will make the most of the performance capabilities of Sun's multithreaded processors, David Yen, executive vice president of the Microelectronics unit, said Tuesday.

Sun's multithreaded design makes it possible for a processor to perform more tasks simultaneously. But 10G-byte Ethernet networks not configured for multithreaded processors create a data bottleneck, Yen said.

"Today, there is more Internet-based throughput demand. That's the nature of the workload. There is a new breed of multicore processors available to do that, but one thing that is missing is the network interface," he said.

Sun, under Project Neptune, has been developing NICs (network interface cards) and ASIC (application-specific integrated circuits) that optimize the capability of multithreaded processors. Under the licensing agreement, Marvell will use that technology to develop its own NIC and ASIC products, said Marvell spokeswoman Diane Vanasse. Also, Marvell will build specific products for Sun using this technology.

Although the Sun-Marvell deal has been in development for some time, it is the first agreement announced since Sun's new Microelectronics group was announced last Tuesday. The group will license Sun technology to other firms.

Faster throughput is needed to optimize the benefits of virtualization, said Raju Penumatcha, vice president of Netra System and Networking at Sun. Netra is a line of Sun servers used in telecommunications. As data centers combine workloads onto fewer and fewer servers, they will need faster connections to networks to move data processed in a virtualized environment.

Yen said Sun also plans to work with Marvell to develop upcoming generations of Ethernet I/O technology that runs at 40G bytes per second and, eventually, 100G bytes.

Marvell is facing delisting from the Nasdaq stock exchange because it has failed to file an annual report for 2006 and quarterly reports for the last two quarters of 2006. It has been conducting an internal review of stock options accounting irregularities. Marvell filed a notice Friday with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission notifying shareholders of the delisting possibility.

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