SAN JOSE, Calif. Sun Microsystems has reportedly lost one of its top microprocessor architects, Marc Tremblay, a Sun veteran who was leading the company's next-generation Sparc team. The departure is the latest in a stream of losses that have sapped the company's top tech talent.
According to a New York Times report, Tremblay left Sun for a position at software rival Microsoft. Tremblay led several major CPU projects during his time at Sun including Rock, a multicore processor aimed at refreshing Sun's big back-end servers.
Tremblay presentation of the Rock design was one of the top microprocessor papers at the prestigious International Solid-State Circuits Conference in 2008. However, Sun chose to delay the chip for a year, making it due any day. Tremblay attended ISSCC this year as an observer.
Sun said Rick Hetherington, a company veteran who has served as co-CTO of Sun's microelectronics with Tremblay, will take over the post on his own.
The departure comes in the shadow of Sun's negotiations with IBM Corp. about a merger. If the on-again, off-again merger goes ahead, IBM is likely to end the Sparc program at Sun in favor of Big Blue's own Power CPU that drives a wide array of its servers.
Sun desperately needs a hot, new Sparc design to breathe new life into its big database servers. Many are rapidly approaching end of their commercial life, one factor that drove Sun's server sales down in its last fiscal year.
Tremblay joined Microsoft as a distinguished engineer in the company's Strategic Software/Silicon Architectures group under co-CTO Craig Mundie. Tremblay will report to K.D. Hallman, general manager of the group. Tremblay's charter is to help oversee cross-company technical task forces and strategic direction for the company's software and semiconductor technologies.
In recent years, Microsoft has hired supercomputer gurus Burton Smith and Dan Reed to help it navigate its road map into the new many-core CPU terrain.
Last year, Sun lost its co-founder Andy Bechtolsheim who returned to the startup world. Bechtolsheim co-designed Sun's first product, an engineering workstation and helped define many of its latest server blade systems.
Last year the company also lost David Yen, a longtime microprocessor veteran who managed a number of new initiatives at the company in servers and storage systems. Yen departed for a senior post at Juniper Networks.
Among other talented but lesser known senior engineers, Balint Fleischer, a former chief technologist in Sun's storage group and a lead architect of its Infiniband strategy, is apparently no longer at Sun. In addition, Les Kohn who designed early Sparc processors and returned as part of a startup acquisition to define its Niagara processors also returned to the startup world a few years ago.