IBM chip consortium powers up with new members

Big Blue also makes preparations to push its Power chip technology into areas that include entry-level storage and digital TV.

SHANGHAI--IBM's evangelism of its Power processor architecture has wrought fresh devotees, and spawned new technology advancements from members of its alliance.

Eight new members including startups, have joined the consortium, bringing the total of companies in the group to 30 and the number of developers to more than 9,000, said Nigel Beck, chairman of during the group's summit here Tuesday.

Ten months have passed since IBM launched, a community where members collaborate to develop products based on IBM's Power processor technology, which include the chip and intellectual property (IP) cores. Together, the components are commonly referred to as system-on-a-chip (SOC), which uses multi-processor cores and the necessary peripheral functions to power systems such as networking equipment and mobile phones, via a single chip.

One of the latest technological developments comes from engineering software company Cadence Design Systems, a member of since December. The company announced the availability of a set of services for SOC designers who embed PowerPC cores, including a new custom-synthesized design approach that Cadence says results in improved processor speed and reduces chip area.

Meanwhile, the new members include a data security solutions provider, an electronic design automation company, a PowerPC-technology product supplier, as well as a Linux-on-Power architecture system developer.

Powering up the chip
Beck said the consortium's latest members will help IBM in its quest to widen the accessibility of the Power chip technology.

Emboldened by its recent strong showing in the Unix server market, in which servers in this category carry Power chips, IBM is ready to take on other segments where its processors could be used.

In fact, Big Blue has set up five key technical sub-committees with the aim of helping members use and implement the Power platform more easily, especially in the realms of high-volume server and storage platforms, he added.

The sub-committees involved will help define and publish reference platform specifications to enable original design manufacturers and original equipment manufacturers (ODMs/OEMs), to design and build compatible Linux-based low-cost Power-based servers, as well as storage servers for Asian small and midsized businesses.

"I believe that the Power architecture has yet to be leveraged in the consumer and industrial space", said Vijay Lund, vice president of server and storage development at IBM, during a presentation at the summit.

Two sub-committees will focus on managing SOC design arising from Internet Protocol core complexities. is also considering a sixth committee to specifically look at the media platform, where standards and strategies will be developed to further new product opportunities involving consumer media appliances. Beck noted that IBM sees great potential in the digital TV market, where the Power chip could be used in associated devices such as set-top boxes and home media servers.

In other news, Rapport Incorporated, a maker of dynamically-configurable, low-power chips, announced it has signed an agreement with IBM to license PowerPC 440 core.

Rapport is building a new product--targeted for production by end-2006-- that combines PowerPC 440 core with its own Kilocore chip, said the company's co-founder Debbie Hindus. The new offering can be used "for power-sensitive apps like mobile devices", she said.

ZDNet Asia's Jeanne Lim reported from Shanghai, China.