Sun co-founder exits for start-up

Andreas von Bechtolsheim is resigning as chief architect of Sun Microsystems Inc. to put his full energy behind a start-up that is challenging Cisco Systems, reports the New York Times.

Bechtolsheim, who co-founded Sun and has created some of the best-selling computer systems in the industry, will serve as chairman and chief development officer of Arista Networks, a company that has built an ultra-fast network switch that costs one-tenth the price of similar products from Cisco.

The hardware, which has already been purchased in small quantities by government labs, universities and Internet start-ups, is aimed squarely at data-oriented organizations such as Google that need to wring as much speed as possible from their computing centers.

While a number of companies sell competing gear, the pedigree of Arista's management and its modular, easy-to-update software have given the four-year-old firm instant credibility in Silicon Valley.

Arista ? known as Arastra until it changed its name this week ? announced today that it has recruited Jayshree Ullal as chief executive. Ullal left Cisco in May after leading the company's $10 billion corporate switch business.

In addition, the company plans to name a Stanford University professor, David R. Cheriton, as its chief scientist. Bechtolsheim and Cheriton are the sole investors in Arista, and they are known in Silicon Valley as men with a golden touch.

If it is successful, Arista would be a prime acquisition target for Cisco or another hardware player like Hewlett-Packard Co., which has bulked up its networking business.

Ullal and Bechtolsheim said that was not their goal. "If Andy wanted to sell this company to someone else, he didn't need me," Ullal said. "We are here to build a company." Bechtolsheim added that he was willing to finance the venture through an initial public offering.

Bechtolsheim's departure will certainly be a big blow to Sun, which is wrestling with declining sales and profits and a plunging stock price. But he said he would retain a part-time advisory role at the company.

"It's my baby," Mr. Bechtolsheim said. "I will always be associated with Sun."

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