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IBM unveils new Power processor strategy

Posted: 07 Apr 2004 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:ibm? processor? java? linux? embedded?

IBM plans to embark on a new "open collaboration" model for its Power processor architecture and create an ecosystem of developers, ISVs, solution providers and other partners that could resemble the company's efforts with Java and Linux.

The Power processor, introduced in IBM RS/6000 workstations in 1990, has become the Armonk, N.Y.-based vendor's proprietary, RISC-based architecture. It's the processor for the current lineup of IBM pSeries and iSeries servers and Apple Computer systems, and OEMs have begun implementing it in embedded solutions.

At a media event in New York on Wednesday (March 31, 2004), IBM executives said the key to advancing technology in that space will be to broaden access to it. "The stage is set for innovation by open collaboration," said Nicholas Donofrio, IBM's senior VP for technology and manufacturing.

Though IBM will continue to closely manage the basic instruction set for the RISC-based processing architecture, the company said it will broaden licensing of the processor technology. The vendor also aims to "jump-start" what it says will be a "new open community" for development and integration of the Power architecture and expand manufacturing options to enable chip foundries to manufacture its processors.

"We're breaking new ground," Donofrio said. "We're charting new waters."

Among the steps IBM is taking are the following:

  • A new licensing deal with Sony, in which the Tokyo-based electronics giant can use the Power processing technology in various products.

  • New customer agreements with companies ranging from L3 Communications to China-based Global Brands Manufacture Group to Christie Digital. The latter company has agreed to replace its existing Hewlett-Packard servers with IBM iSeries servers.

  • The launch of a new Power-based blade system, the IBM eServer BladeCenter JS20.

  • The rollout of a new Power Architecture Pack, an evaluation kit that would allow designers to create "custom Power chips" in a simulation environment.

  • The opening of new Power Architecture Centers to provide IBM partners and customers with system-design assistance on the Power platform.

    Discussion and research for a future processor that can dynamically reconfigure itself, add more resources such as memory or even upgrade automatically once integrated into a solution.

    The announcements came in conjunction with IBM's first demonstration of its upcoming Power 5 processor, which can run multiple OSs via virtual partitions. Power 5 will be IBM's proprietary processor for its own server offerings, and the company will continue to offer the PowerPC chip to the OEM market.

    The soup-to-nuts announcement, which IBM is calling its "Power Everywhere" strategy, is by far the vendor's most sweeping update for its processor lineup and strategy in several years. Leading the New York launch event was Irving Wladawsky-Berger, IBM's VP of technology and strategy.

    Wladawsky-Berger also oversaw IBM's bear-hug embrace of Java and Linux and has become the company's chief evangelist for on-demand computing. While IBM was still spelling out the details of how it plans to further open up the Power platform, Wladawsky-Berger said the action would be necessary to continue the company's ability to innovate.

    "Technology is very exciting," Wladawsky-Berger said. "But it is not the end in itself."

    - Edward F. Moltzen

    Silicon Strategies

    Edward F. Moltzen is with CRN

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