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October 16, 2006

Computer engineer Jose Renau to serve on OpenSPARC advisory board

By Tim Stephens

Jose Renau, assistant professor of computer engineering, has been appointed to serve on the OpenSPARC community advisory board created by Sun Microsystems to provide oversight for the OpenSparc community.

Photo of Jose Renau

Jose Renau
(Tim Stephens)

The OpenSPARC initiative began earlier this year when Sun released the underlying design of its UltraSparc T1 processor (also known as "Niagara") under the terms of a General Public License (GPL). The move extends to chip design the basic concept of open-source software, which makes the underlying source code for a software program freely available so that other software developers can modify and improve the program.

"This is the first time a major company has made the code for the design of their chips available under a GPL license," Renau said. "Releasing the code for a processor is substantially different from software releases, so Sun has set up the community advisory board to establish the rules for how OpenSPARC will be administered."

The five charter members of the advisory board include two from Sun and three from outside the company. In addition to Renau, they are Nathan Brockwood, principal analyst at Insight64; Robert Ober, a fellow in the CTO Office at LSI Logic; and David Weaver, UltraSparc architect, and Simon Phipps, chief open source officer, from Sun.

Sun computers using the UltraSparc T1 chip are used as Internet servers and in other applications that demand high-speed processing of many jobs in parallel. Since the release of OpenSPARC, one company has announced plans to make a modified version of the chip for embedded computers in consumer products.

"Sun's release of OpenSPARC has resulted in new opportunities. If this is successful, we may see similar programs from other companies in the future," Renau said.

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