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Sun says it will help develop Opteron

The two companies are hanging out more than ever--and cooperative efforts on AMD's processor are only a matter of time, exec says.

It's only a matter of time before Sun Microsystems starts helping Advanced Micro Devices enhance the Opteron chip, at least according to Sun.

Speaking to reporters earlier this week, David Yen, executive vice president of the scalable systems group at Sun, said that the collaboration between the two will lead to cooperative efforts on AMD's flagship processor. To date, Sun has cooperated on other technological initiatives with AMD, but not on the Opteron chip itself.

"Over time, more intimate cooperation inside the processor chip will definitely happen," Yen said.

Participating on the development of the Opteron processor itself is a natural evolution of the relationship between the two, Yen said. Sun joined the HyperTransport Consortium, the group that promotes the chip-to-chip link found on Opteron and other chips, two years ago and began to sell Opteron-based servers in 2004.

Sun, of course, also has years of experience in designing high-end processors.

A few weeks ago, Sun released a workstation based on an Opteron. Sun in fact advised AMD on some of the technical specifications of fitting that processor into a workstation, said John Fowler, executive vice president of Sun's network systems group.

Corporations increasingly are willing to buy Opteron-based servers.

"A year ago, I would sit down with a customer and they would want to know what AMD is about," Fowler said. "I don't get than anymore. We're very much past the basic question, is AMD ready for the enterprise."

The onerous capital costs and scientific challenges facing chipmakers and designers have forced most chipmakers into extensive alliances to defray costs and risks. AMD has linked up with IBM to develop manufacturing processes and technologies like strained silicon. AMD also has an agreement to use, if necessary, contract manufacturing facilities at Singapore's Chartered Semiconductor (also a pal of IBM's).

Sun, meanwhile, cooperates with Fujitsu on the evolution of the Sparc chip. In 2007 and 2008, Sun's high-end servers will come with a chip mostly developed by Fujitsu with input from Sun, Yen said.

AMD would not comment on to what degree Sun would participate in the development of future versions of Opteron, but said that the two work closely on technical issues and to promote products.

"AMD has a collaborative relationship with Sun, but we have not disclosed any details on any specific projects," a company spokeswoman said.