Power.org Organization Announces Merged Power Instruction Set Architecture
November 13, 2006 Timothy Prickett Morgan
As promised, the Power.org organization that IBM created to promote and standardize the Power processor architecture and build of the ecosystem of hardware and software based on the Power chips has rolled out a new instruction set architecture, or ISA, for the Power platform.
Power ISA Version 2.03 and the related Power Architecture Platform Requirements (PAPR) specification were both announced last week, and Power.org also unveiled a roadmap for the Power architecture and the processors that use it.
The new ISA merges the architectural elements of IBM’s Power and PowerPC processors with the vector processing extensions created by Motorola before it spun out is PowerPC business as Freescale Semiconductor. The ISA also includes tweaks that IBM and Freescale have made for their embedded processors. Of course, to see the new Power ISA, you have to be one of the 40 members of the Power.org association. It is not a public document, but the ISA specs as well as those for Power-based reference platforms are available for free to members of Power.org.
According to the announcement, Applied Micro Circuits, Freescale, IBM, Rapport, and Synopsys have all shared their Power processor roadmaps with members of Power.org. The Rapport Kilocore chip is perhaps the most interesting, in that it has a PowerPC core surrounded by 256 or 1,024 8-bit parallel processors all in one package.
The questions now are whether the merged Power ISA includes the memory tags required to support i5/OS–which has to be true by definition–and whether future Power chip makers will make sure these instructions are in their chips. If they are, this could enable clone System i and System p servers–and that would be very interesting, indeed. The PAPR specification is completely focused on Linux-based systems, by the way. Decide for yourself what this means, and then get IBM to change it. PAPR should include AIX and i5/OS as well. It is time to open up the market a little, get some innovation going.