Sun Microsystems, the Silicon Valley company best known as a developer of severs and software, unveiled Monday its first commodity chip, putting itself in a position to compete with partners Intel and Advanced Micro Devices.
The chip, which Sun touts as the world's fastest microprocessor, will be sold by the company's newly formed commodity chip business and be available sometime in the last quarter of this year.
Sun formed the new unit in March to develop and sell chips to other companies, as well as for its own use. The company currently used Intel and AMD chips in its lower-cost servers, computers that process online transactions, host internet websites and run corporate operations.
According to Sun Microsystems' chief executive Jonathan Schwartz, the company's new chip, code-named Niagara 2 and officially called UltraSPARC T2, and its new business are key to its future growth.
Having struggled to return to consistent profitability since the dot-com bust years ago, Sun reported last week a better-than- expected quarter profit.
"We are too big to have anyone be just an ally or a competitor, " Schwartz said. "We partner with Microsoft, we partner with IBM and we also compete with IBM and Microsoft."
Sun's new business has other new chips planned for later this year and next year, including an anticipated high-performance chip, code-named Rock, designed for servers running mainframe-like transactions for banks and scientific problems handled by supercomputers.
Schwartz said he also sees a market for Sun's chips in networking equipment, storage equipment, set-top boxes and other devices.
Sun hopes that Hewlett-Packard, its arch rival in server business, could use its Rock chip to replace Intel's Itanium in the company's biggest and costliest systems sometime next year.
Sun officials said the new Niagara 2 chip, which was more than three years in the making, will surpass all its competitors in processing power and energy conservation.