Sun: Open source Niagara 'successful'

Server and software company continues efforts to publish source codes of its chip designs; launches Niagara 2 microprocessor.

The success Sun Microsystems has seen from publishing the hardware designs of its Niagara processor is pushing the server and software company to continue its open source chip initiative, and release the source codes of its latest "Niagara 2" processor.

Speaking to reporters during a conference call last week, David Yen, executive vice president of Sun's scalable systems group, revealed that there has been more than 5,500 downloads of the OpenSparc T1 source code since its UltraSparc T1 Niagara processor was made open source in March last year.

Yen added that the downloads clocked so far were requested from various locations across the globe, "including every continent".

"Because the open-sourcing of Niagara 1 [has been] overwhelmingly successful, we are now following the same practice, [and] are looking to continue and open source the Niagara 2 [processor] under the GPL (General Public License)," he added.

Yen said Sun will make UltraSparc T2--also called Niagara 2--open source and is aiming to complete this process by the third quarter of 2008. The Santa Clara, Calif.-based company today officially launched the new UltraSparc T2 microprocessor, targeted at telecom companies and storage manufacturers.

To drive developer enthusiasm on the new platform, Yen said, Sun is providing the OpenSparc T2 technology programmer reference manual and technology microarchitecture specifications through its OpenSparc community site.

"At the same time, we will [also] roll out a developer beta program in which we will provide access to Verilog RTL design file and test suites, so that we can get early feedback to refine our open source process and eventually complete the open-sourcing [of UltraSparc T2] by the summer of 2008," he explained.

The programmer's reference manual will "jumpstart software ports, operating system ports and tools development for OpenSparc T2 projects", according to Sun. The microarchitecture specifications will provide "detailed description of the features and functionalities of the OpenSparc T2 hardware blocks [that] help hardware and system designers innovate and potentially create new applications", the company said in a statement.

In addition, it noted that the OpenSparc T2 beta review program will provide access to a "limited number" of hardware designers and tool developers to begin working on the CMT (chip multi-threading) processor with server-on-a-chip functionality. According to Sun, the program "catalyzes the development of a community for OpenSPARC T2 [and] speeds the debugging process".

Yen said the first systems equipped with Sun's new eight-core, 64-thread microprocessor are expected to be available "in the next quarter, before the end of this year".