If you were like me and enjoyed the July 4th holiday week, you likely missed a very subtle – yet significant – event: the July 2nd release of firmware by IBM for use in the OpenPOWER Ecosystem under the Apache license, version 2.0. This action further signifies IBM's commitment to opening up the Power architecture and fulfills an IBM's promise to the OpenPOWER Foundation. It also demonstrates cross-company innovation with the inclusion of significant code contributions from Google.
The OpenPOWER Foundation, established in 2013 by IBM, Google, Tyan, Mellanox, and NVIDIA, represents a growing alliance of over 40 organizations committed to building new technology based on the POWER microprocessor architecture. Plans to form the organization were first revealed in this IBM Press release stating that “The move makes POWER hardware and software available to open development...”
But, honestly, what makes the release of open source firmware so significant for OpenPOWER? In a nutshell, it enables collaboration around hardware. As OpenPOWER Foundation members innovate around the processor and system architecture, having a freely available, easily extensible, and simple to re-distribute firmware becomes a critical requirement. The release of this firmware under the Apache license provides a solid base around which a community can be built to support the OpenPOWER Ecosystem and to enable future hardware and software innovation. While a community could have created a new code base from scratch, IBM has shortened the time to innovation by tens to a hundred of person years through this contribution.
If you would like to get involved in this emerging firmware community or simply want to follow along, the project list is currently available on github at https://github.com/open-power. If you want to be involved in the larger OpenPOWER Foundation group responsible for the firmware, keep you eye open for information on the proposed System Software Work Group. A draft charter is presently being reviewed that allows for an open work group in which anyone can participate.
So, let the innovation begin. Come help us put the “Open” in OpenPOWER!