Power.org Expands Oversight of Architecture

The community group founded by IBM will drive initiatives to merge the platform's instruction set and to unify the branding for Power.

Power.org, the community group announced by IBM in December 2004 to expand the reach of the Power architecture, is taking a larger role in the evolution of the platform.

The group, which now numbers more than 40 members—including five new ones—is overseeing the merging of the various instruction sets for the architecture and a rebranding of the platform that brings all elements of Power under a single umbrella and logo.

The moves are aimed at further expanding the use of Power and accelerating the development being done on the platform, according to Bill Dykas, manager of Power ecosystem development for IBMs Technology Collaborative Solutions group. Power.org is making the announcements July 24 at both the Freescale Technology Forum in Orlando, Fla., and the Design Automation Conference in San Francisco.

"There are a lot of unifying themes" within the announcements being made, Dykas said.

Key among them is the move to merge the instruction set for the architecture, which essentially are the keys for communicating with the processor to make it do its work, he said. The Power instruction set has evolved in three directions—for running large systems, such as IBMs System p servers; PowerPC, which is used in such products as Apple computers; and for embedded systems, where companies like Freescale Semiconductor sell products to customers in such sectors as the automotive industry.

These variations of the instruction set have been working in parallel for about 15 years, Dykas said. The goal of Power ISA version 2.03 is merge the three variations.

"This will help with the technology and improve the designing [of products based on Power]," Dykas said. "Everyone going forward as they design products will have the same instruction set architecture."

Charles King, an analyst with Pund-IT Research, agreed.

"This will make it a little easier to work with the Power architecture," said King, in Hayward, Calif. "You wont have to choose one [instruction set] over another."

The new ISA version will be released later this quarter.

Power.org, also is readying its first reference design specification, aimed at the Linux space. The Power Architecture Platform Reference, or PAPR, is designed to help speed the development of Power-based products that use off-the-shelf Linux distributions and applications. It also works in concert with the open-source Xen virtualization hypervisor, Dykas said.

The community also is working on a branding initiative, again as part of a unifying push for the architecture. The goal is to have the disparate variations of Power share a single identity and common message, Dykas said. It will include a new green Power logo for all Power-based products and tools for enabling vendors to communicate the advantages of the architecture to the marketplace.

Pund-ITs King said Power.orgs announcement indicates a high level of confidence by IBM and other founding members in the groups abilities to steer efforts not only in product development around the platform, but in evolving the platform itself.

Industry observers were skeptical of the notion behind Power.org when it was announced in December 2004, King said. The idea of creating an open-source-style community for hardware development was new, and analysts were unsure how it would work.

However, the growing membership of the group and the number of products—Power has become a key platform in gaming consoles, for example—that have been developed indicate a thriving community, and having Power.org take over such initiatives as merging the instruction set and branding for the architecture furthers that notion.

"It shows a lot of good will by IBM and Freescale," he said.

Other hardware makers also are looking at creating communities around their products. Sun Microsystems in December announced its OpenSPARC initiative based on its multicore UltraSPARC T1 chip, formerly code-named "Niagara."


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