Wind River (Intel) acquires Virtutech

Well, it’s official now: Wind River acquires Virtutech, the company I founded in 1998 together with a brilliant team of four co-researchers from SICS – Bengt Werner, Andreas Moestedt, Magnus Christensson, and Fredrik Larsson.

Simics will live on, but that wraps up Virtutech, and thus the end of an almost 19 year long project. So, for the history books, some retrospective …

In the summer of 1991, I was hired by Andrzej Ciepielewski and Torbjörn Granlund to do my Master’s thesis at the Swedish Institute of Computer Science (SICS) to finish my CS degree at the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH). There was no office for me, so I got to borrow Seif Haridi’s room and computer. The task was to write a simulator to support the computer architecture and operating system research related to the Data Diffusion Machine (DDM) project, a project that would shortly thereafter be managed by Erik Hagersten. My reference point was a simulator written by Robert Bedichek at the University of Washington. I was given a user account (psm) and a tar file.

The project was supposed to take about six weeks.

Those six weeks grew. By around 1993, I had realized out that a simulation platform that could run unmodified commercial operating system code was doable, despite the fact that this had never been accomplished in an academic project (which we eventually did in 1997). I became convinced (and still am) that this is by far the best way forward to improve software development environments, since, once inside a deterministic simulator, you can do some seriously cool stuff. The technical vision took a little longer than six weeks, though – it took another twelve years; with the launch of Simics 3.0 and the Hindsight technology in 2005 (see the whitepaper), all the core elements that I scoped out on a whiteboard around 93/94 were in place.

In 1998, we founded Virtutech to continue developing that simulator, eventually named “Simics” (short for “the SICS Simulator”)

Simics has continued a steady market success in the years afterwards, and it is the future: sooner or later, all software development, testing, and debugging will be done in a fully reversible virtual machine. That future will unfold from Wind River and Intel; it’s hard to imagine a better home for the technology.

Virtutech was the first spin-off from SICS, and Simics went on to become the dominating third-party full system simulation system, with a stellar cast of customers over the years including Sun Microsystems, Ericsson, AMD, HP, IBM, Cisco, Freescale, and Honeywell. The commercial success gave the resources to bring the technical vision to fruition. A very long list of wonderful customers and colleagues made Virtutech an amazing experience. You know how books sometimes include acknowledgment of people “too numerous to mention”? I always thought that was rude. But now I understand. For a vision like Simics to become reality, a lot of great people put in a lot of effort. Thank you, all of you. You know who you are!

This acquisition ends my 19-year-long relationship with Simics. A fitting time period. It’s taken as long from conception to “leaving the home” as a human being. Basically, Simics has grown up, and is now going to college.

9 Comments

  1. Great news, thanks for sharing the story!

    Like

  2. Seif Haridi

    Congratulation Peter!

    Like

  3. Bjorn Hovstadius

    A great vision. I hope Intel can keep it and develop it. Congratulations!

    Bjorn

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  4. Chris Hall

    Congratulations Peter! To paraphrase an earlier note, it’s rare indeed for someone to start something that has grown to the extent Virtutech has.

    Like

  5. Pelle Berg

    Congratulations! Good news. Peter, I wish you well!

    Like

  6. Alejandro Cisneros

    Very touching and moving story Peter. Congratulations for having been a pioneer in the area of full system simulation and for your and your teams’ achievements. Why did you leave Virtutech in the first place? Would it have been acquired if you had been in command?

    [PSM] Well nobody reads this blog anyway, right? Especially the comments? So it’s safe to answer? The short answer is the investors brought in management that decided to change basic elements of the strategy – in a direction that I strongly disagreed with. In that situation the best thing to do was to remove myself from the picture and let them try to execute, so I phased myself out. In the end, they were wrong, I was right, but whaddayougonnado? By the time the investors started to realize that maybe they had backed the wrong dog, too much time had gone by, and Intel made a good offer, and now it’s all history. But hey, as an entrepreneur, if you can’t take the heat, stay out of the kitchen…

    Like

  7. Aman Joshi

    Congratulations, Peter! Great Journey. Glad to be part of it.
    [PSM] Hi Aman! And thank you!

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  8. Mike Turnlund

    Congrats Peter! A great vision and tool – glad as well to be part of that journey.

    Mike

    Like

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