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01 Dec 2004:
A community for open standards for chips and systems that use Power microprocessors is growing in China, helping the technology find its way into a longer list of consumer, networking and computer electronics.
At an event here today called PowerEverywhere Beijing, attended by numerous high-ranking government and university officials, regional customers, reporters and industry analysts, IBM and many other companies outlined their vision for a development community for this microprocessor, including the formation of Power.org.
Power.org is a community meant to promote advances in Power Architecture technology and make those advances available to a wider community, accelerating open standards for this customizable technology. It was one of several important announcements showing momentum that included:
"IBM is building a soup-to-nuts strategy of being a focal point of technology development for the world's chip suppliers at the baseline and following this through to the market with its design capability and partnerships with other companies. At the same time, it is opening up to make those partnerships viable," said Dan Hutcheson, president, VLSI Research.
Customizing for Local Markets
In today's world -- where innovation on demand is a must -- consumers are surrounded by intelligent devices, such as cars, communication gear, video game stations, MP3 players, computers, network systems, and more. Many of these are driven by Power Architecture technology, and many more might be introduced soon given the technology's flexibility, recent breakthroughs, and greater acceptance by companies in China.
For instance, Shanghai Belling, China's largest semiconductor company, said today it intends to license Power Architecture technology so it can design and manufacture advanced chips for a host of future consumer devices, while Culturecom has introduced a unique kiosk-like system called a tax organizer, now being piloted in several Chinese villages. The organizer helps rural citizens understand a providence's tax structure and how to pay taxes, and it helps the government keep better track of them.
The university setting isn't a stranger to the milestones and accessibility of Power technology, either.
Peking University says it will launch a no cost Internet access pilot program so developers can access Power-driven servers, making it easier for them to develop, port and test "open source" applications. "This also will enhance the level of excellence in undergraduate and graduate engineering programs," said Professor LIN Jianhua, chief vice president of the university.
Million Milestone, Adding 150 Engineers
Chips based on Power technology have been shipped in the multiple millions worldwide, but this week one of its more recent entries, the IBM Power 970 FX, which the firm Semiconductor Insights gave an award to for its new design and technology innovation, reached a new milestone, with more than one million of the chips shipped.
And given its expanded use, with the heightened interest in Power technology in a variety of industry segments, IBM, which designs and manufactures the chips, said it will expand its Power Architecture Technology Center in Shanghai, operated by IBM Engineering & Technology Services, to help clients create their own product designs using the technology. IBM expects support for this center could reach 150 people during the next 18 to 24 months. This would occur through a significant increase in IBM staffing as well as through teaming with local companies that provide engineering skills.
In a related product development, TimeSys, headquartered in Pittsburgh, PA, announced the availability of its TimeStorm Linux Development Kits for IBM PowerPC 750 FX and GX. Thousands of embedded Linux developers worldwide from a range of industries have chosen TimeSys solutions to streamline the development, customization and validation of homegrown or commercial Linux-based embedded systems.
A First in Wet Manufacturing
Innovation in processes used to make chips contributes to IBM's leadership in the area. Dr. Bernard Meyerson, chief technologist, IBM Systems & Technology Group, revealed new details of its pioneering use of immersion lithography.
IBM is the first company to successfully employ this "wet" process to produce commercial microprocessors. These chips, based on IBM's Power architecture, were literally patterned underwater, an industry first.
Using light to pattern chip features in air is reaching the point where one cannot consistently make such features small enough, he explained. The wavelength of light used for patterning chips in a process called lithography is now actually far larger than the features one is making, greatly limiting future progress. Working in a liquid such as water, light can be "bent" more efficiently than in air, enabling it to be directed with greater precision, in theory aiding greatly in chip manufacture. In practice, however, the most fundamental question remained, would challenges due to working "underwater" prevent one from building products with this technique. IBM's successful manufacture of commercial Power microprocessors using immersion has dramatically increased confidence in this new technique's future.
"This advancement holds great promise for continuing progress in chip manufacturing technology well into the future," Dr. Meyerson told the audience.
IBM also announced the addition of two "synthesizable" processor cores, meaning they are easier to manufacture at foundries other than IBM's. They are the IBM PowerPC 440S and the IBM PowerPC 405S, available this month and expected in the first quarter of next year, respectively. A third synthesizable processor core, the IBM PowerPC 450, targeted for the networking and communications segments, is expected to be available in 2006.
Support From Venture Capital Community
Power Architecture technology has drawn the interest of venture capital firms, too. "Venture capital firms have invested in telecommunications, semiconductors and consumer electronics. Power.org can help companies in these segments develop new customers and generate new revenue from their investments in Power," said Robert Jelski, global head of electronics investments for the venture capital company, 3i.
Breakthrough with Toshiba, Sony
This drumbeat of success for the Power Architecture technology -- found in products ranging from game systems to blades and from desktops to supercomputers -- came only days after one of the more significant announcements in the history of this customizable technology, that of a breakthrough related to the microprocessor known under its code name, Cell.
Sony Group, IBM and Toshiba Corporation, working together on this revolutionary technology, revealed the first technical details of the chip, which is based on Power and will accommodate Linux as well as other operating systems. The companies have invested more than $400 million in this project. Because it is Power technology it can be easily customized for leading-edge performance, low power consumption and advanced function.
PowerEverywhere Beijing was part of an ongoing initiative to enable more companies, universities and even individual developers to use the Power Architecture technology, to innovate on it, and to share ideas in product design.
The model of Power.org will bring more strength to the architecture, because more design and software tools to develop devices using the Power instruction set will be made available, while more developers will have a place to meet, connect, collaborate and innovate on consistent interfaces. This should result in the development of more function-specific devices and systems, lower costs and improve time to market.