Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?
Sun Microsystems

Sun Opening Microprocessor Technology 54

bjb writes "The Wall Street Journal reported this morning that Sun plans to announce later today that they are going to distribute designs of their microprocessors to outside developers for free. Similar to the Java license that recently came out, you can modify it, but if you sell you have to pay. The schedule appears that they will release the PicoJava first, the 32-bit SPARC technology by the summer, and the 64-bit UltraSPARC technology by the end of the year." This article requires a paid login to read- what a crock. Anyway, someone please submit a free link. Update: 03/02 12:09 by S : News.com is now carrying the story. It's interesting to see how this move fits into Forbes' analysis Sun's strategy of getting attention with buzz around Java, Jini, and now Sparc Processors, in order to attack the very high-end more effectively. In the world of Starfire and Serengeti (supercomputers), Sun is probably telling the truth when they say that Linux does not compete with them (long term).
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Sun Opening Microprocessor Technology

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward
    "Sun will charge a royalty only if customers ship the processors for revenue"

    "The maneuver is not unlike the open-source movement"

    Oh, really? Obviously, it's completely unlike the open-source movement. I think that whoever is running OSI these days needs to run another publicity/identity blitz so that people stop confusing these fakes with the real thing.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    i'd have to look up the url... here's the link [news.com]
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Its also on CNN, but there isn't much detail: http://cnnfn.com/digitaljam/9903/02/sun/ [cnnfn.com]
  • Three words: SGI Visual Workstation. They have a 3.2GBps system bus, unless I am mistaken. They're not comparable to an E-anything, though.
  • No, I don't think you can get them transparent. ;)
  • I think this is the closest that Sun will get to OSH (Open Source Hardware). In my office (we're a hardware manufacturer) I can throw a stick and hit 3 different software people. I can also hit 2 or 3 hardware designers. No chip designers.

    OSS proliferates because everyone has easy access to the means to manufacture (compile) the code. OSH will have a harder time because it has to be physically produced, and there is no way that you'll ever get a hardware company to produce hardware for free. It won't happen.

    All this being said, I think this (releasing the designs of chips) is the closest you'll get to actual OSH. However, this may make products like UltraPenguin better, since the coders can take a look inside the chip...

    Bravo to Sun for doing this. I hope more hardware manufacturers follow this model.
  • So....t his means I can make one at home? Cool.
  • This is a first, small baby step for a large corporation to wholeheartedly embrace the concept of open source. Sun has spoken with *action* here, not just "endorsement"... So I'm glad.

    No, it's not "pure" open source, but it *does* increase one's freedom WHILE insuring Sun get's their due if you sell it. That's the important thing.

    Will it work? Time will tell. I'm hopeful.
  • Here's the press release at Yahoo [yahoo.com]

    The release hasn't appeared on Sun's web site yet - their site normally gets updated late in the day.

    Personal gripe - I submitted this story 5 hours ago with some extra info - not some 'paid subscription' junk, but did it get posted? No.

    Btw, at the register, they also have this article titled Intel, Sun schmoozing for a chip cruising [theregister.co.uk]. The info is rather basic. Apparantly Microsoft is pissed off...

  • I think looking at the physical chip design is a bit extreeme, for trying to get a bit more performance...

    Anyway, ARM is the current champion of chip IP. They don't make, or get made, any chips themselves. Instead anyone can get a liscence to make them, or to make designs with ARMs. About 50 million ARM 'chips' were made last year, up from 10m the year before. ARM are expected to capture 70% of the digital mobile phone market this year... 3Com are going to start using them in network cards, and they're already appearing in hard-discs and stuff.

    It's not particularly sexy, but ARM is worth nearly $2bn, a 300% increase since they floated a year ago. They're doing pretty damn well ^-^

    However, ARM do charge an upfront fee. This cost for the ARM 9 is rumoured to be around $5-10million. The cost per chip is about $0.10 to $0.20 though. Incidentally, liscencing Sun's Jini costs nothing up front, and has an individual cost of about $0.20, with a max of $250,000 I think.

  • Yeah, Sun's margins on hardware in general, are about 50%, while their margins on software is about 30%. They probably don't care too much because 90% of their revenure is from hardware. To some extent, Solaris is just there to sell the hardware.

    With regards to the 3.2GBps system bus/interconnect, what were you referring to? The main memory bus on a processor board is somewhere around that level. However, the main data bus is nearly 13GByte/s and about 15GB on the newer, slightly revised ones. It also has a 6GByte/s IO bus.

  • A university could make a PicoCore derivative or maybe even 32 bit SPARC implementation. It depends on the size of the program. Along the way those busily working graduate students would innovate and contribute to the universities I.P., which in turn contributes to the universities prestige and bottom line (assuming they have a non-brain dead industrial partnership/seeding system)

    The larger designs provide valuable insight into the state of the art in various techniques and technologies at the time of the chips design.

    This is valuable stuff. The fact that Joe Blow can't make use of it is not the point anymore than the fact that Joe Blow can't actually do anything useful with the source code provided by OpenSource software projects. Most people type download binary code. Some people download source code and type make. Relatively few download the source code and make non-trivial modifications. It takes more than the availibility of a compiler and source code to do so.
  • In the world of Starfire and Serengeti (supercomputers), Sun is probably telling the truth when they say that Linux does not compete with them (long term).

    Surely this should be short term? Yes, at the moment, Solaris scales better than Linux, but for how long? I've personally run Linux an an Ultra Enterprise 4000, and UltraPenguin [linuz.cz] runs on the E10K ("StarFire"). OK, so Linux only currently scales to 16 CPUs, but given access to appropriate hardware that'll improve. Apart from anything else, it's very rare to have a whole StarFire configured as a single domain anyway. We have 4 here, and the largest single domain has (I think) 22 CPUs.

    The point is, yes, Solaris is currently a much better choice at the high end than Linux, but Linux has consistently pushed upwards for the last few years, and it'll catch up with the commercial Unix vendors (including Sun) in a few years time. Yes, Sun and the others will have moved on by then, but my guess is Linux will push into the high end quicker than the high end will advance.

  • Sorry, I call 'em like I see 'em. There are trade-offs involved in making a kernel scale to big numbers of cpus, and Linus isn't willing to make them (rightly so, I might add). Let me put it to you this way: would you accept a serious slowdown on your 1-4 processor home machine just so you could brag that linux scales well on 64-processor machines (that very, very few people own)?
  • well gee, maybe hitachi, intel, amd, motorola, ibm, compaq... get the point, dimwad?

    "The lie, Mr. Mulder, is most convincingly hidden between two truths."
  • i havent seen an update to their page in ages anyway but i'm wondering if this effectively kills it.

    "The lie, Mr. Mulder, is most convincingly hidden between two truths."
  • Can we now start the 'Free Hardware Foundation', Stan Kelly-Bootle's idea of the logical extension of the FSF? I think this is a great idea :-)

  • > Let me put it to you this way: would you accept a serious slowdown on your 1-4 processor home machine just
    > so you could brag that linux scales well on 64-processor machines (that very, very few people own)?

    It seems to me that you could select the 'CPU Count' your kernel supports as a kernel compile option. I'm not much of a kernel hacker, and I can see how it could make a mess of some code, but it could be done. I can just see the options: Uniprocessor, 1-4 CPUs, 1-16 CPUs, or 1-64 CPUs. The only performance drawback would be when a kernel from a system with lots of CPUs is used on a system with only one or two. Oh, and when you set up a system you would need to put the right kernel on it to take proper advantage of the number of CPUs you have.

  • open source hardware. Now that's something you won't fine from transmeta-eat that Linus! :)
  • they're open sourcing sparc too. Everyone uses sparc in high-end servers
  • thank RMS and Perens for bickering. yeah right-thank you very much.
    Thank ESR, BSD and the Mozilla project for proving open source is compatible with commercial products. Not free but not proprietary either
  • Hi All!
    I made a new Samovar award for this Sun's move:

    March awards [sunysb.edu]

  • Free speech vs. free beer. Sun Microsystems embraces the business model of the fastest growing computer
    technology - Linux. It opens everything: Java, Jini, Solaris, Sparc and PicoJava. With only very small exception:
    you may not redistribute Sun technologies without passing compatibility tests and paying royalty. That is what is
    called freedom in Linux world. The early but strong sound that Linux should fire back was made few weeks ago by
    Stallman. Maybe most of us don't want to shed blood in the crusade for the freedom, but it seems that this small
    article defines most of what will happens in industry the next decade. In history pragmatism always wins over
    ideology, but we still don't know which approach is more pragmatic. We can't predict how Linux and Sun will
    divide the market but it is certain that everybody who can't open the source code will be out of business very

    http://www.ecsl.cs.sunysb.edu/~andrew/awards/ind ex.html

  • I don't know what you're thinking of, but the open source in this case seems to be Register Transfer Level designs, which just specifies where data goes and when. I don't think Sun is going to release the masks used...
  • Giving this stuff away free is the only way anyone is going to really adopt it - Java computers, Java Operating Systems, Java ICs...all of these concepts have had little or no adoption.
  • I see this as very usefull in a way,
    but OTOH:

    - Anybody saw any license?
    - Should anybody look at their data to find out that he/she can't ever do anything without getting in trouble with Sun?
    - Can Sun claim any chip designed by someone that saw their desings as derivative work?
    - How many designers/companies will be sued by Sun in the next years?
  • so does this mean that sombody might make a cheaper system?
  • Speaking as an electronic CAD research person, things like this are very useful. One of the toughest problems, especially for university types, is getting realistic designs for testing purposes. There's a big difference between algorithms that work for small benchmark circuits and those that can handle 100K+ gates, and unless you have good examples, it's easy to fool yourself.
  • On Sun's site you could look at http://www.sunworld.com/swol-03-1999/swol-03-csl.h tml for Jivi.

    Fortuna favet fatuis (Fortuna favors fools, and most of them run windows)

  • All of you are right about SunWorld. So her's the Sun url : http://www.sun.com/smi/Press/sunflash/9903/sunflas h.990302.4.html;$sessionid$KAP5OSYAACSU1 AMUVFZE4GUBSSUXEUDO

"So why don't you make like a tree, and get outta here." -- Biff in "Back to the Future"