Sun Microsystems is releasing the specifications of its new UltraSPARC T2 processor, formally code named Niagara 2, to the open-source community Dec. 12, as part of the company’s ongoing effort to build more of a community around its signature chip. The goal of releasing Niagara 2 into the open-source community through the General Public License is to create a larger community around the chip and increase the number of operating systems and applications that can use the processor, said Shrenik Mehta, senior director for Fronted Technologies and the OpenSPARC Program at Sun. In 2005, the company released the specification for the UltraSPARC T1 processor and the designs have been downloaded 6500 times since then, Mehta said.
Sun Brings Niagara 2 Chip to Open Source
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2007-12-11 11:51 pmDownix
But people *are* making their own processor and logic. Look up the SimpleRISC S1, which is a stripped down T1 for embedded applications. In addition, the docs Intel and AMD provide is always limited to what they want you to know. By having the T1’s sources one could better optimize a compiler to the processor. In addition, there is the comfort that should a bug develop, you could analyze the sources, find the issue, and notify Sun, thereby saving everyone time and money.
Plus, you could take the T2, modify it for a specific purpose, and approach a silicon vendor to have it produced to your specifications, legally. And Sun benefits because your improvements they can then fold into future versions they themselves make. It is a win-win situation.
So you can really play on a fully open sourced hardware platform.
2007-12-12 10:17 pmpsychicist
You were right a few weeks ago and I believe it’s very important for free operating systems to support free hardware designs, particularly considering the huge potential for optimisation.
Also please check your messages. I sent you one a few weeks ago, in case you haven’t noticed yet. Now I’m only waiting for T1/T2 and derivatives to reach the bulk processor market.
2007-12-12 10:36 pmDownix
I didn’t spot it, but my email is very hokey at points. I’ll take a look. My backup email is my nick at hotmail.
2007-12-12 10:50 pmpsychicist
I sent you a personal message on this web site, maybe the confusion arose from that. Anyway, good luck with your SPARC and OpenBSD endeavours.
2007-12-12 11:40 pmDownix
This website has personal messages?
2007-12-12 11:50 pmpsychicist
Yes, please look at the right side for OSNews v4, reachable by following http://www4.osnews.com. You would probably not see all the options when you’re reading this web site in v3 mode.
2007-12-13 4:17 amDownix
Tried the messages under Konq, just drops me to the main menu. Just tried under Firefox as well, still no messages. I’d try under IE, but I’m on my UltraSPARC atm, and NT for UltraSPARC is not very useful, altho I do actually own a copy.
2007-12-13 7:49 ampsychicist
Don’t worry, I’ll resend it by e-mail if you want. I find it very strange that it doesn’t even work in Firefox as that’s what I’m using at the moment and it works in Konqueror using KDE 3.5.7 on Slackware 12.0 x86, x86_64 and SPARC too.
2007-12-13 9:55 amDownix
Very bizzare indeed. I might have something wrong in my configuration then, which is most likely the case. **slaps Kubuntu around a bit**
2007-12-12 2:46 pmSamAskani
This is simply amazing
Any student/professional in u-electronics design will certainly appreciate this. We’re talking about a brand new processor, flagship of an important company.
Most of people certainly does not have the installation to build a full Niagara 2 chip, but the community can always get inspired by a particular module of a last-gen processor.
In counterpart, Sun can have new ideas for the design of the future generation of their chips, even if in these moments maybe the design of Niagara 3 is totally finished, which is very common in chip design.
By opensourcing the Niagara 2 design, Sun is offering to the community an impressive amount of working-time. I think we can just welcome this step from Sun in becoming a more opensource company.
…how well does it run a an ordinary “hobbyist”-affordable FPGA. Heck, can this even be synthesized onto one of those?
2007-12-12 3:09 amDownix
Honestly, even the S1 (which is just a single T1 core) needs a Virtex to fit it. $400 FPGA, so a serious hobbyist.
2007-12-13 7:57 pmmadcrow
So much for my idea of a homemade SPARC-based graphing calculator…
Software developers (even those who develop an OS) couldn’t care less about the CPU’s implementation specifications (*), but they care about the chipset API that Sun doesn’t give in general.
But Hardware developers do care about the CPU implementation specifications.
*: it was suggested above that this could be helpful for debuggers: I doubt this, the view of a CPU that a debugger have is very, very simplified compared to an implementation specification, sure you could use the implementation specification to generate the debugger view but this would be useless work as Sun has most probably already ported gdb to their CPU..
2007-12-12 2:29 pmDownix
I was talking about debugging on the hardware level eg: t northbridge chip the company I worked for used a few years back shipped with a serious data corruption bug that occured whenever a bus mastering over PCI occured. It took years to track down, and was never truely gotten rid of, only patched. Had the source for the chip been available, then possibly a lot of the workaround and reverse engineering necessary for the patches could have been avoided, possibly.
Edited 2007-12-12 14:30
I’m not a developer, but understand the benefits of open source software. Is this immediately only beneficial to developers? I can see in the long run that software could be much better designed to run on the processors, but I don’t really see “people” trying to make their own processor/motherboard logic.
How is this really different as compared to when Intel releases developer documentation about their platforms?