Sun Creates Advisory Board to Spur OpenSPARC Development

Sun Microsystems on Monday announced the creation of an independent OpenSPARC Community Advisory Board. The board is chartered with setting the direction for the OpenSPARC community, which fosters the creation of tools and derivative chip designs based on Sun’s UltraSPARC T1 processor. OpenSPARC now includes a new GNU/Linux distribution, Gentoo Linux, which is supporting UltraSPARC T1 in its latest release.

Sun’s announcement of the Advisory Board comes as the OpenSPARC initiative has been gaining some momentum. Since its introduction last March, there have been over 3,500 OpenSPARC T1 hardware downloads and over 2,600 OpenSPARC T1 software downloads, Sun reported.

Open Source Key to Growth

“To grow, we can’t just rely on upgrading our installed base. We have to go after new customers, and that’s what open source helps us do,” said John Fowler, executive vice president of Sun’s systems group. “The OpenSPARC program helps us accelerate our adoption rate into the new, emerging Web 2.0 market. Last quarter, 60 percent of the trial units for our Sun Fire CoolThreads servers went to new customers, [and] that’s a trend we want to continue.”

The new OpenSPARC Community Advisory Board (CAB) will be comprised of five charter members: two from Sun and three outside the company. Nathan Brookwood, analyst with Insight64; Assistant Professor Jose Renau, UC Santa Cruz; and Robert Ober, fellow, office of the CTO, LSI Logic, are joined by David Weaver, senior staff engineer, and Simon Phipps, chief open source officer, from Sun. The board will solicit input from the OpenSPARC community to shape the evolution of the initiative. The board’s charter isposted online.

“By open sourcing its core technologies — Solaris and SPARC — Sun has moved from talking the talk of open systems to walking the walk,” said Insight 64’s Nathan Brookwood. “Since no company ever has a monopoly on creativity, Sun’s ability to expand the community of those who can contribute to SPARC and Solaris should increase the market opportunities for all involved.”

Ubuntu Shares Community Vision

Ubuntu Linux, which last May was the first third-party to announce a port of its GNU/Linux OS to the Sun Fire T1000 and T2000 platforms, has reported over 3,000 downloads of its OS supporting the OpenSPARC T1 processor, as well as at least 800 sites running Ubuntu on SPARC systems.

The port was carried out by the Linux community, in particular David Miller. The community’s UltraSPARC work lead to support for UltraSPARC T1 in the mainline Linux kernel (2.6.17).

“Ubuntu and Sun share a common vision: accelerating the adoption of technology and community development through freedom and openness,” said Mark Shuttleworth, CEO, Ubuntu.

Gentoo Linux, which focuses on delivering better — what it terms “near-ideal” — tools for developers, is now supporting the UltraSPARC T1 processor on Sun Fire T1000 and T2000 servers, and has developed a specific installed CD to assist with the process. Through the OpenSPARC program, Gentoo sees an opportunity to further extend its reach into the enterprise market.

Meanwhile, Simply RISC — a team of former STMicroelectronics engineers working in Italy and England — has published the first derivative chip design based on OpenSPARC. The 64-bit, single-core design targets embedded applications in PDAs, set-top boxes and digital cameras.

The design is freely downloadable from the Simply RISC Web site and can be supported by operating system distributions from OpenSolaris or GNU/Linux.

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