Power Architecture, Part 1: Creating an Image

What do you do when a thriving segment of the computing industry has an identity crisis because few people beyond key vendors know it exists? That’s the dilemma many of the supporters of Power Architecture are trying to fix.

One approach to establishing a better identity is to gather software vendors together to discuss the industry and common problems in writing code for hardware that uses the Power Architecture.

To that end, Power.org, an association of hardware technology companies, software and individual developers of Power Architecture, hosted a first-of-its-kind Software Summit in Austin, Texas, on April 19. The summit focused on identifying solutions to the challenges associated with software development on Power Architecture.

The primary purpose and short-term goal was to create a discussion with open source product makers. Open source programming is a main contributor to the Power architecture.

“That discussion didn’t get very far because most of those software developers didn’t see themselves as members of any unified community. They were just a bunch of individuals at a conference,” Ross Dickson, principal technology specialist for Virtutech told LinuxInsider. Virtutech is an embedded systems software developer.

Results Expected

Even though no major results with software vendors flourished from the one-day Software Summit, Dickson is confident that the gathering will bear fruit. The seeds for collaboration were planted, he asserted.

“I see these companies all doing the same thing on their own. Now they will start to discuss industry concerns more openly because they have found a common resource in Power.org,” he said.

Dickson is not alone in that view. Other leaders in the Power.org movement share his confidence.

Any first-time gathering has a lot of retrospective and identify finding, noted Glenn Beck, Industrial/Storage Market Segment Manager for the Networking and Computing Systems Group for Freescale. Freescale is a major manufacturer of Power processors.

Bright Spots

Given the larger-than-expected turnout, sponsors of the summit find much to feel good about. The outcomes far surpassed any shortcomings.

“The purpose was to bring individuals from IBM, Freescale, and PA Semi into the same room with developers, end users and independent software vendors (ISVs) in order to stimulate conversation, collaboration and ultimately an improved ecosystem,” said Kai Staats, CEO of Yellow Dog Linux developer Terra Soft. He presented a key address, “The Business Case For Software on Power,” at the summit.

As for the outcome, Staats said the summit hits its mark. A number of high-quality presentations and valuable real-time discussions ensued around a number of topics.

These included the need for a Power desktop computer to be returned to the market, Eclipse and the different needs of embedded, desktop and high performance computing (HPC) developers. Staats is founder of the HPC Consortium.

HPC provides access to high-performance Linux OS systems with an immediate focus on the Cell Broadband Engine found in the IBM and Mercury Cell products, and the Cell processor found in the Sony PlayStation 3.

Ripple Effect

The summit will have a very positive impact on the industry, said Beck, who is also the marketing chair for Power.org. One major benefit is that the software vendors that attended learned how to take advantage of what Power hardware offers.

Beck expects the dialogue that continues from the Software Summit will have continued good effects over the next few years.

“We feel that our membership in Power.org is really about advancing the Power Architecture. Participating in the Summit sends a message which is a critical part of our marketing strategy,” Beck said.

Power Step

Organization leaders said they used the Software Summit as a stepping stone to a larger event that will attract hardware and software developers industrywide.

Power.org will host the first-ever Power Architecture Developer Conference on September 24 and 25 in Austin, Texas. The Conference will provide in-depth technical training, the latest technology innovations, groundbreaking demonstrations, and practical design information.

“The Power Architecture community represents one of the most experienced and diverse system design communities in the world. This conference extends our commitment to enhancing the Power Architecture ecosystem and enabling innovative applications,” said Michael Paczan, Chairman of the Power.org Technical Committee.

To further fan the fires of interest, Power.org opened a forum area devoted to software discussions on its Web site, noted Paczan, who is also the CTO of IBM’s Power.org Initiative.

Power Primer

Power Architecture is the engine that runs much network and communications equipment, such as Internet routers and switches, as well as consumer electronics such as set top boxes and game consoles. It even ran the computer controls for NASA’s Mars rover.

The “Power” name is actually an acronym for Performance Optimization With Enhanced RISC. Power processors run a RISC instruction set designed by IBM.

Based on open source technology, the Power Architecture family of processors ranges from embedded PowerPC microprocessor cores and microprocessors to Power5 server processors.

Power To Go

“More Power Architecture-based processors were sold last year than ever before,” said Paczan. “IBM succeeded in getting all major games on the Power PC platform. All of those boxes, millions per year, developed a huge gamer base.”

Power chip maker Freescale continued to grow in the automotive and communication industries in recent years. Fifty percent of all autos use it this year, Paczan said.

A large portion of the Power Architecture’s use is found in the embedded market. However, much like the embedded Linux market, consumers rarely know what is inside driving their cars and consumer products.

“We are heavily embedded in the automotive, aerospace and defense marketplaces,” concurred Freescale’s Beck.

The benefit to operating system vendors is they do not have to write their own processes. This lowers the development cost and gives customers more choices, Paczan explained.

Making the Brand

The leadership behind Power.org hopes to educate consumers by conducting what will amount to a “Power Inside” marketing campaign, Paczan announced. The plan is to make the Power Architecture brand more recognized as a key component in so many electronic devices.

Part of the identity crisis the Power.org is facing was caused when Apple pulled out of the Power Architecture community two years ago and opted to install Intel processors instead. Apple first joined with IBM in 1991 to form the Power PC movement.

The most visible Power user was Apple. Now people do not hear about the Power Architecture as much, Paczan explained. Since last year, the organization has been working on new branding through Power.org to make it more prevalent.

“The Green P symbol will hopefully become highly recognizable,” he said. “But not all of the developers will want to do this.”

Power Architecture, Part 2: Drawing In Developers

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