Why Sun “open-sourced” UltraSPARC T2? [take two]

After this Hugo’s post over my last blog entry I feel I still have some more things to say about this matter.

UltraSPARC T2 (codename Niagara) is an high-volume microprocessor. The target market is not the average Joe, unlike the Intel/AMD commodity CPUs but the largest businnesses around the world like oil or multimedia companies (BP, Disney, Pixar, etc). Most of these companies are tied to mainframe manufacturers (i.e. IBM) for producing the biggest and powerful computing-grids in existence and the software to run over it.

Sun is now opening the doors to these same companies, both mainframe vendors and costumers . One is free to build and sell it. The other is free to develop on top of it.

I really don’t believe that there will be semi-conductor factories other than Sun’s deploying this kind of processing unit, still the option is available. What I trully believe is that some of these entities, which aren’t as strong as IBM/Sun, will embrace this opportunity and focus their efforts into selling and developing solutions while Sun provides the R&D 😉

And this is IMHO the new market that Sun is reaching: selling its Research & Development.

There will be no need for lock-in contracts. You [large company] can simply buy your mainframe-grid (for instance to HP) and have other company engineers building the tools for the task in hands.

Decoupling is healthy. It brings more quality and less costs. Isn’t that so?

Now, Hugo is right when he points out: “How much would it cost to build a processor like this without a dedicated factory? Emulators, maybe? FPGA? I’ll wait to see how many hackers will emulate this SPARC in order to improve it and find bugs. Not that it wouldn’t be cool, I just think it isn’t practical at this time.

How many architectures are supported by Linux/BSD? Have you ever asked how the hell a Linux hacker had access to an IBM s/390 mainframe in order to build a suitable kernel for it? The answer is simple: it’s the large companies that have been hiring these same hackers! So do you still think that it’ll be hard to get hands on this baby?


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