SPARC's Opening Number

by Amy Newman

With the publication of the UltraSPARC Architecture 2005 and HyperVisor API Specifications, Sun's OpenSPARC Initiative has opened the door for porting to Linux and BSD on UltraSPARC T1 systems.

The Open Source Business Conference (OSBC) show is rapidly becoming a hotbed of announcements for both traditional open source players and those hoping to be. Sun Microsystems falls somewhere between the two, but Tuesday it came a step closer to being among the former.

President and COO Jonathan Schwartz opened the West coast edition of the conference, officially unveiling the road map for Sun's OpenSPARC Initiative and announcing the chip will be licensed under the GPL.

Schwartz told the crowd of attendees, "Proprietary technology relegates you either to a niche or to the ditch. We're growing our market opportunity by steadfastly open sourcing the entirety of our software portfolio — from the Solaris OS to Java developer tools — and now we're taking the next step by open sourcing the world's most innovative microprocessor under the GPL."

At this time Sun made public the UltraSPARC Architecture 2005 and HyperVisor API specifications.

The release came a month a head of schedule, Sunil Joshi, senior vice president of design tools, performance and quality assurance, told ServerWatch. It is designed to jumpstart the porting of Linux, BSD, and other operating systems, along with middleware and applications, to the UltraSPARC T1 CoolThreads processor.

Such applications and middleware have long ported to x86, with Intel and AMD keeping their chip architectures under wraps.

Although Joshi fields a lot of questions about porting Windows to the chip, he has not seen a great deal of interest from the burgeoning community. With the capability to run BSD and Linux on the OEM's moderately priced hardware, Sun is moving squarely into commodity player territory, a move Joshi doesn't necessarily see as a bad, as he believes the value add from Sun gives it an advantage in volume play.

Sun first made known its plans to open source the chip at last December's quarterly networking meeting in New York City. At the time, it pledged to open up the architecture to its newly unveiled UltraSparc T1 multicore processor.

This article was originally published on Wednesday Feb 15th 2006
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