More Open Chips
By webmink on Aug 07, 2007
As a member of the Interim Governing Board of the OpenSPARC community, I got a note a few days ago from the Sun Microelectronics team telling me some great news. The new low-energy, high-performance chip they have designed, codenamed Niagara 2, is now available as the UltraSPARC T2. But much more importantly, they're releasing all the source code for it under the GPL v2 and asking OpenSPARC to look after it.
OpenSPARC has been quite a surprise to me. The Board met last week to explore the shape of the community governance and we have a pretty coherent draft prepared. Even during the formative stages, though, we've seen amazing effects caused by OpenSPARC, including the tremendous work of David Miller and the Linux crew, leading to commercial support Ubuntu on SPARC by the good folks at Canonical. It was evident from the "Open Source Hardware" panel at OSCON that this area is still an adventure, but "The World's First Free 64-bit CMT Microprocessors" are inspiring innovation and change beyond anything Sun could have achieved alone.
The new chip is still great for tasks like web serving, but now has higher throughput and much, much better floating-point capabilities. Even more interesting is the fact that the openness is paying off. We'd already seen projects in China and the UK to create OpenSPARC derivitives for the embedded market; today, Jonathan writes about a new OEM. What next? A laptop?