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IBM Cedes Power Spec to Power.org

IBM said it will make the blueprints of its PowerPC 405 core freely available to researchers and academia through open standards industry group Power.org.

The PowerPC 405 family of cores is at the heart of a range of computing devices, from gaming consoles to the BlueGene/L supercomputer.

The move, announced at an investment summit in Palo Alto, Calif., this week, is a response to requests by computer science teachers and participants in multi-core processing research projects, such as the Research Accelerator for Multiple Processors (RAMP).

RAMP, which includes researchers from MIT and the University of California, Berkeley, is trying to deliver a low-cost platform for experimenting with massively parallel systems on a chip.

RAMP researchers will be able to map this core into their FPGA-based (Field Programmable Gate Arrays) systems for new chip architecture experiments, IBM said in a statement.

"The contribution of the IBM PowerPC 405 core will allow researchers and educators to better explore new computing architectures for massively parallel systems and accelerators, and assist software developers in experimenting with new programming models on these systems," said Nigel Beck, chairman of Power.org.

At the investment summit, venture capitalists from around the world met with Power.org members to outline the more than $200 million in venture capital investments made over the last year to fund emerging Power.org members that are creating products on the Power architecture.

To date, more than a dozen VCs, including Walden International, USVP and 3i, have funded 13 Power.org member organizations, driven largely by Power's growing acceptance in gaming consoles.

For example, the Power Cell processor will be featured in the forthcoming Sony PlayStation 3.

At the event, Power.org issued other news that details its momentum.

The org has created an advisory board of venture capitalists to help fund start-ups that are geared toward creating products based on the chip architecture to quickly enter new markets.

The board will work with Power.org to validate new "disruptive hardware technologies and strategies," the statement said.

The Power.org VC advisory board members include: David Liddle, managing partner, USVP; Lip Bu Tan, managing partner, Walden International; Robert Jelski, partner, 3i Ventures; Rob Chandra, general partner, Bessemer; and Carl Everett, partner, Accel Partners.

Power.org may have been created to do in hardware what Linux has done in software, but its efforts are being duplicated by Sun Microsystems, albeit on a smaller scale.

At its quarterly news launch last week, Sun pledged to open up its UltraSparc T1 processor to those interested in building products with it.