OpenPOWER in 2020: a year in review

Published on Monday 21 December 2020


James Kulina, executive director, OpenPOWER Foundation

Can you believe it’s already the end of year, as we’re getting ready to close out the year and wave goodbye to 2020? It’s certainly hard for me to believe that it’s only been six months since I joined the OpenPOWER Foundation as executive director.

It has been a one-of-a-kind year for all of us - and yet, despite it all we’ve managed to accomplish great things as an open source community. The title of Linux Foundation’s annual report summarizes it nicely: advancing open collaboration amid the challenges of a lifetime.

When I reflect back on 2020, there are three things that stick out to me. I’ll remember 2020 as the year that POWER technology was used for the most noble purposes, the year of the community coming together, and the year in which we made strides to develop a fully open ecosystem surrounding the POWER ISA.

POWER used for good

I was inspired to see all the different ways POWER technology contributed to a healthier world. When the coronavirus spread across the world, OpenPOWER members jumped into action.

  • Scientists from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory worked on research to help understand the outbreak and develop treatments.
  • Members such as CINECA, Barcelona Supercomputing Center and Jülich Supercomputing Centre participated in the Exscalate4CoV program to help study the coronavirus and identify solutions to more quickly address pandemic situations.
  • IBM helped to launch the COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the U.S. Department of Energy.
  • Other members, like Nimbix and NVIDIA, provided complementary resources to others working at the forefront of coronavirus research efforts.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that OpenPOWER members and technology are vital to important research efforts - it’s quite common. In fact, just this year we shared details on research projects that took place at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in areas like nuclear waste remediation, fusion energy, climate change, cancer research and pharmacology.

I can’t wait to see how OpenPOWER members help solve new challenges in 2021.

A fully open ecosystem

In 2020, we continued to develop a fully open source ecosystem and built on top of the recently open sourced POWER ISA. New contributions made this year included:

  • A2I POWER processor core, a multi-threaded core designed for high streaming throughput
  • A2O POWER processor core, for enhanced single-thread performance
  • Open Cognitive Environment (Open-CE), based on IBM’s PowerAI to improve consumability of AI and deep learning frameworks

In addition to these open source contributions, other advances were made this year to help OpenPOWER developers and members create new technologies on Power. Antmicro joined the OpenPOWER Foundation this year, and announced support for the POWER ISA in Renode, its multi-architecture simulator for software and hardware co-development.

Antmicro’s Michael Gielda shared with us that, “when the POWER ISA became open source, given our strong belief in a vendor-neutral, multi-solution ecosystem that is needed to make open hardware a reality, it was only a matter of time for us to join OpenPOWER.”

Enabling developers to test applications based on the POWER ISA was an important step in growing the OpenPOWER footprint, so we’re thrilled to have Antmicro’s support and collaboration.

Community momentum

Despite a challenging environment this year, our community found new ways to connect and collaborate. This year’s OpenPOWER Summit was a virtual event for the first time, and it was the most highly attended event we’ve held to date.

We also launched our OpenPOWER Foundation Slack channel, which has been instrumental in allowing organic collaboration and discussion between members of our community. Anyone interested in learning more about OpenPOWER can quickly and easily join the channel.

Last but not least, we kicked off important collaborations with other Linux Foundation projects this year. Bridging the gap between various Linux Foundation communities across AI, Cloud Native, Edge, Networking and more will help us develop new applications for POWER technology.

As 2020 comes to a close and we begin looking forward to the year ahead, I’m excited to continue building momentum for the OpenPOWER ecosystem. One of my biggest priorities for 2021 is making OpenPOWER more accessible to a wider audience. We have a number of initiatives in the pipeline that will help us achieve that goal - so stay tuned.

What about you - what stands out to you most about open source hardware and software from 2020? And what’s your biggest priority heading into the new year? Let me know in the comments below!


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