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IBM Open-Sources POWER ISA and Reveals Reference Models

IBM open-sourced the POWER Instruction Set Architecture and hardware reference models; the corporate announced at the OpenPOWER Summit. The OpenPOWER Foundation further turns into part of the Linux Foundation.

Open sourcing the POWER ISA implies that developers can design chips based on the instruction set royalty-free. Along with the ISA, IBM is also developing a softcore available to the community, which the corporate got running on a Xilinx FPGA. It shows the first tangible result of opening up the POWER ISA.

Moreover, IBM is also contributing to OpenCAPI and Open Memory Interface (OMI) reference models. CAPI, OpenCAPI since version 3 as a part of an open consortium, is IBM’s standard to connect accelerators to the CPU, similar to CCIX and CXL. A subset of OpenCAPI 3.1 that gives a low-latency protocol for accessing memory is called OMI.

With these open-source models, the OpenPOWER Foundation hopes to develop the OpenPOWER ecosystem, as it is also becoming a member of the Linux Foundation. With this step, POWER is turning into a competitor of the comparatively young open-source RISC-V instruction set that is achieving momentum.

The Instruction Set Architecture (ISA), further called instruction set or architecture, is in simple phrases the gathering of instructions that a processor can carry out; it determines the primitives for a machine language programmer. The implementation, called microarchitecture, usually has a broader impact on the power and efficiency traits, while guidance set extensions target a more narrow, specific set of workloads or algorithms to accelerate.

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