Sun Microsystems is to make the designs of its new UltraSparc T1 server processors open source in an attempt to win greater support for its hardware in the developer community.
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Specifications for the Sparc chip family have previously been available to those who pay a licensing fee to the company, but Sun now plans to release both the specs and the designs, written in the Verilog hardware description language, for free.
These will be accompanied by a verification suite and simulation models. The information will be distributed by the newly set up OpenSparc group in the first quarter of 2006.
Sun’s main Solaris operating system is already open-source and the company recently made most of its server software open source too.
The latest open-source announcement from Sun came as the company launched its first servers using the energy-efficient and multi-tasking UltraSparc T1 chips, previously code-named “Niagara”.
Each UltraSparc T1 chip has eight processing cores which can run up to a total of 32 simultaneous instruction sequences. The whole chip consumes a maximum of 72 watts, which is less than comparable solutions from Intel. Intel’s Xeon consumes between 100 and 165 watts.
The new server processor is competing against similar enterprise processors from IBM, Intel and AMD. Sun hopes the new processor will help stall its server sales decline, which has seen it fall back in terms of market share against the top three of HP, Dell and IBM.
The new T2000 server launched this week starts at £4,600 and goes up to £15,300. The T1000 will arrive in the first quarter of next year and will cost between £1,800 and £6,500.