NEW YORK—Taking the game plan implemented so successfully by Linux proponents, IBM will open up its Power microprocessor platform to enable other companies to innovate on top of the architecture.
The goal is to enable Power-based solutions to grow to the point where much of the technology developed—from the smallest embedded systems to the largest supercomputers—is created atop the Power architecture, IBM officials said Wednesday at a news conference here.
To reach that goal, executives said they will aggressively reach out to partners and move to develop a vibrant community that will use the Power platform as a key building block for products that will be easily integrated with each other.
“We need a whole community of innovators to help us bring Power everywhere we want to take it,” Irving Wladawsky-Berger, vice president for technology and strategy at IBM, told a room of more than 100 reporters and analysts. “Only through collaboration can a technology become a platform for innovation.”
Over the past few years, IBM has been moving in this direction, with various partnerships with such companies as Apple Computer Inc., Samsung and Red Hat Inc. At the event here, executives laid out several aggressive plans to create an ecosystem that will remake the Power platform into a more open and customizable technology.
IBM, based in Armonk, N.Y., is creating a portal where other technology companies can find resources and information regarding the architecture and begin creating a model that can be used to guide innovation in the future. At the same time, IBM is offering a free Power Architecture Pack that will enable companies to evaluate and create custom chips based on Power and their own technology in a simulated environment.
A software tool kit, which will include an interface for chip developers, a design tool and a verification tool, will further help customers in their creation of custom chips.
In addition, the company will open Power Architecture Centers around the world that will help companies design Power-based software and systems. Initially staffed by IBM employees, eventually they will include third-party experts certified by Big Blue.
IBM will continue with its own development of the processor; its due to release Power5 in the second half of the year, and already is working on Power6. In addition, at the event here the company demonstrated the architecture in everything from its BladeCenter JS20 to a scaled-down version of the Blue Gene supercomputer. IBM also announced that the JS20 will begin shipping in April. But it also will look for partners to customize and innovate on top of Power, similar to what Apple, of Cupertino, Calif., has done with the PowerPC 970, which runs in its G5 systems.
However, the industry can no longer focus on chip speed or size as the key factors to platform development, said Bernard Meyerson, chief technologist and vice president of IBMs Technology Group. The continued shrinking of the chips has led to faster, cheaper and denser systems, but it also is resulting in chips that burn a lot of power through leakage. And while the development of the chips has driven the industry for the past four decades, going forward it will be the way the architecture optimizes systems and software that will key future innovation, Meyerson said.
“The bottom line is, you cant make things smaller forever,” he said.
Key to that will be partnerships with other companies, what Meyerson called “a vibrant processing ecosystem.”
“Theres a worldwide system of very smart folks out there, and you have to engage them,” he said. “Its not about the gigahertz or megahertz. … Its about system optimization. This is going to be a world driven by integration.”
That is a key driver behind IBMs push to move Linux onto the Power platform, said Nicholas Donofrio, senior vice president of technology and manufacturing at IBM. Open-source Linux has quickly become the key operating system on everything from the smallest servers to the largest supercomputers, and IBM is looking to model its push for an open Power platform on such movements as Linux.
“Its time for an architecture that really enables innovation to flourish,” Donofrio said.