IBM Plans Industry's First Openly Customizable Microprocessor

Chief Technologist Says Future Power Architecture Chips May Physically Reconfigure Themselves to Adapt to Applications

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NEW YORK - 31 Mar 2004: IBM today outlined plans to openly collaborate and build a community of innovation around its Power microprocessor architecture used in a vast range of products from the world's most powerful enterprise systems and supercomputers to games and embedded devices. The move could have major implications for computers and the electronics industry at large.

This unprecedented step by IBM is designed to create a platform for innovation that enables researchers and electronics makers to add the features and capabilities that will drive new devices and applications. The move recognizes the fact that it is the final chip designs -- more than the underlying architecture -- where innovation is taking place to create entire systems in silicon, not just electronics components.

Also, for the first time, IBM demonstrated its upcoming POWER5 microprocessor running multiple operating systems in virtual micropartitions. POWER5, which is IBM's own high-end design using the Power Architecture, will drive future versions of IBM's industry-leading server and storage systems. The PowerPC implementation of Power Architecture will continue to serve the OEM community.

At an event called Power Everywhere held here today, IBM described how the Power Architecture is gaining momentum, including several major new licensing agreements, customers, products and technology demonstrations. Most notable were new IBM programs that incent other companies, business partners and university researchers to use the technology to create a wide variety of chips that can power a diverse set of electronics products.

Those steps include:

" Power is the leading architecture for silicon innovation," said Nick Donofrio, IBM senior vice president, technology and manufacturing. "In fact, Power was designed from the ground up for massive scalability and is the most customized processor in the world. The time is right to establish it as a more open, modular and pervasive platform, accelerating the creation of next generation devices, systems and applications."

New Licensee

New Customers

New Product and Demonstration

New Community Support for Users

A New, Open Hardware Era
For years, individual computer chip and system suppliers have pursued their own processor architectures, using the technical merits of one or another to differentiate their products. But these differences have slowed innovation as users of the technology have had to help manage inconsistencies and incompatibilities that resulted and wait for innovation to take place at the discretion of the technology's owner.

Now, with electronics-makers looking to add computer intelligence to a wide array of products, a new chip design model is called for -- one that combines the broad availability and low cost of a standard processor, yet provides the freedom to modify and adapt it to the exact form needed. With this announcement, IBM is creating the best of both worlds: a more open, standard processor architecture from which customers can build exactly the chip they need.

IBM also will explore the notion of opening up our community and collaboration around Power Architecture. We will look at new governance models that will allow us to involve the community in Power Architecture's future and to help set the stage for further innovation

The Power Architecture has already been used to create chips for everything from game systems to PCs to servers to supercomputers. IBM has been the leading producer of custom chips for five consecutive years, with Power cores at the heart of nearly half the designs. Now, with more than half the world's foundry capacity able to build chips based on Power Architecture, knowledge centers around the world, a set of reference designs, a broad ecosystem of partners, and widespread availability of tools, the adoption of Power is expected to accelerate, in turn driving further software development and continued advancement of the architecture.

Morphing Chips
In a presentation at Power Everywhere, Dr. Bernard Meyerson, chief technologist, IBM Systems & Technology Group disclosed that IBM is working on future Power chips that can physically reconfigure themselves -- adding memory or accelerators, for example -- to optimize performance or power utilization for a specific application.

"In the future, the chip you have may not be the chip you bought," said Dr. Meyerson.