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Yesterday, IBM made a huge announcement to seize its commitment to the open hardware movement. At the ongoing Linux Foundation Open Source Summit 2019, Ken King, the general manager for OpenPower at IBM disclosed that the Power Series chipmaker is open-sourcing their Power Instruction Set Architecture (ISA) and other chips for developers to build new hardware. 

IBM wants the open community members to take advantage of “POWER’s enterprise-leading capabilities to process data-intensive workloads and create new software applications for AI and hybrid cloud built to take advantage of the hardware’s unique capabilities,” says IBM. 

At the Summit, King also announced that the OpenPOWER Foundation will be integrated with the Linux Foundation. Launched in 2013, IBM’s OpenPOWER Foundation is a collaboration of Power ISA-based products and has the support of 350 members, including IBM, Google, Hitachi, and Red Hat. 

By moving the OpenPOWER foundation under the Linux Foundation, IBM wants the developer community to try the Power-based systems without paying any fee. It will motivate developers to customize their OpenPower chips for applications like AI and hybrid cloud by taking advantage of POWER’s rich feature set.


“With our recent Red Hat acquisition and today’s news, POWER is now the only architecture—and IBM the only processor vendor—that can boast of a completely open systems stack, from the foundation of the processor instruction set and firmware all the way through the software,” King adds.

Read More: Red Hat joins the RISC-V foundation as a Silver level member

The Linux Foundation supports open source projects by providing financial and intellectual resources, infrastructure, services, events, and training. Hugh Blemings, the Executive Director of OpenPOWER Foundation said in a blog post that, “The OpenPOWER Foundation will now join projects and organizations like OpenBMC, CHIPS Alliance, OpenHPC and so many others within the Linux Foundation.” He concludes, “The Linux Foundation is the premier open-source group, and we’re excited to be working more closely with them.”

Many developers are of the opinion that IBM open sourcing the ISA is a decision taken too late.

A user on Hacker News  comments, “28 years after introduction. A bit late.”

Another user says, “I’m afraid they are doing it for at least 10 years too late”

Another comment reads, “might be too little too late. I used to be powerpc developer myself, now nearly all the communities, the ecosystem, the core developers are gone, it’s beyond repair, sigh”

Many users also think that IBM’s announcements are a direct challenge to the RISC-V community.

A Redditor comments, “I think the most interesting thing about this is that now RISC-V has a direct competitor, and I wonder how they’ll react to IBM’s change.”

Another user says, “Symbolic. Risc-V, is more open, and has a lot of implementations already, many of them open. Sure, power is more about high performance computing, but it doesn’t change that much. Still, nice addition. It doesn’t really change substantially anything about Power or it’s future adoption”

You can visit the IBM newsroom, for more information on the announcements.

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