Big Blue now wants companies and developers to actively participate in the design of IBM's Power microchips, and is encouraging researchers, chip fabricators and electrical engineers to customize Power chips for use in specialized systems or devices.
IBM is also working on developing Power chips that can dynamically reconfigure themselves according to users' preferences or needs. For example, chips could automatically make additional memory available or download accelerators to boost performance as needed, IBM chief technologist Dr. Bernard Meyerson said on Wednesday at IBM's Power Everywhere event in New York City to launch the open sourcing of IBM's Power chips.
"Soon the chip you have may not be the chip you originally purchased," said Meyerson.
IBM's Power microprocessor architecture is already used in supercomputers, high-end servers and some Macs and is embedded in consumer computerized devices. IBM now hopes that companies will avail themselves of the opportunity to customize the chips for use in games systems, desktop PCs, and any other machines that contain microprocessors.
Nick Donofrio, IBM senior vice president, technology and manufacturing noted that IBM's involvement and promotion of open source operating system Linux has been very positive and the company now hopes to extend that kind of growth and developer interest to its Power microprocessors.
Donofrio said that individual computer chip and system suppliers have relied on different microprocessor architectures and features to advance their products over the competition's offerings. But IBM believes closed-source chip design has slowed innovation since users have had to wait for the chip producers to make changes in microprocessor architecture or design.
By opening up its processor architecture, IBM will enable customers to build the exact chip they need, Donofrio said, and will also enable innovation in microprocessor design and function.
"Power was designed from the ground up for massive scalability and is the most customized processor in the world," Donofrio said. "The time is right to establish it as a more open, modular and pervasive platform, accelerating the creation of next generation devices, systems and applications."
The company also named several new licensing agreements for Power chips, including Sony, who intends to use the chips in consumer devices. L-3 Communications announced that it will create custom chips for use in homeland security, aerospace and defense systems.
IBM will also allow other manufacturers to design, fabricate, and offer customized Power chips. The company intends to provide a portal for Power chip developers, as well as free development tools and technical support for developers. The company also intends to open Power chip development centers around the world, where developers can work with the chips, and receive assistance from IBM technicians and, eventually, experts from other companies.
Attendees at the event also got a first look at IBM supercomputers intended for desktop use. Members of IBM's Research division demonstrated a BlueGene supercomputer with 64 Power processors, intended for personal use. IBM promises the compact machine will be priced in the same upper-end range as standard non-super computers.
IBM executives also demonstrated the company's new POWER5 microprocessor at the event, showing how the Power architecture can smoothly run multiple operating systems at the same time via virtual micropartitions.
POWER5 chips are expected to be available later this year.
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