Die PowerPC Szene ist sicher in Aufruhr begriffen. Apple, bisher größter Nutzer von PowerPC Prozessoren auf dem Desktop, verlässt das Schiff und segelt mit vollem Wind in Richtung IA. Sony als auch Microsoft setzen bei ihren Spielekonsolen voll auf den PowerPC bzw. Cell. Zeit also, mit einem der verbleibenden Hersteller von PowerPC Desktops zu reden, was den PowerPC angeht und weitere Pläne. Das Interview ist englisch gehalten, eine deutsche Übersetzung kann folgen, falls Interesse besteht.
Just in case that someone would not know you, who you are, we would introduce you and that can be short: look at http://bbrv.blogspot.com, you will
possibly find a short CV.
We were talking with Raquel Velasco & Bill Buck in September / October 2005. The interview was done via email, so things could have changed a little bit meanwhile.
The interview was initiated and made by Arno Völker and Frank Hollenbach.
Q : Question
A : Answer
Q : You announced a SUN certifiable Java VM/JDK for the 3rd quarter 2005 for LinuxPPC (was Linux, or?).
Is this an inhouse project of Genesi and what can it do better than IBM's Java 1.4.2, will it be compatible with Java 5 (1.5)?
IBM released a Java 5 / 1.5 SDK in the beginning of October (see
PPCNUX from 4th of October ), would
it change a little bit as a Java 5 implementation is now available, even if it is in a beta state?
A : A headless 1.4.2 JVM on the ODW is being certified by Sun now.
J2SE 5.0 can be downloaded here:
Or, alternatively IBM just released this:
We like to have 5.0 certified too, but either we will have to talk IBM into letting [us] have what they have done or we will need to find someone to do it. We are looking for someone to manage this now...
Q : What is the role of Sun within?
For example, Sun's Java Desktop System (JDS) is a SuSE Linux, as part of compensation SuSE got access to the Java Sourcecode...
something similiar like "get OpenSolaris running on PPC/Power and then you get permission to use sourcecode of Java..."
(Remark for our Readers: Unlike OpenSolaris the Java Sources are not free, the code is still closed source).
A : See above - the SUSE Team released some closed source binaries in their retail release to provide support through licenses that are not supported in open source environments.
Q : Could you imagine to offer a pre-built system with a Java-applicationserver (J2EE), for example with JBoss or Apache's Geronimo?
A : Sure
Q : Would it be better to support Apache's (IBM's) Harmony-Initiative to build a OpenSource Java VM / JDK?
A : IBM's implementation is always going to lag Sun's. Of course, for things like Eclipse it would be great if we could see a standard plugin architecture for IDEs.
Q : What about the big competitor to Java, DotNet from MS. What kind of engagement is opportune for Genesi to support, for example Mono (Novell)?
A : Well, the first indications of our developing relationship with Novell can be seen here:
And here... http://www.power.org/
And here: http://www.novell.com/partnerguide/company/48832.html
We are in an initial dialogue with Novell and hope to have a more substantial partnership moving ahead.
Mono, the open source DotNet compiler, is running fine on the ODW thanks to the machines we donated to the PowerPC Linux community.
Q : Unlike MacOS or x86 Linux, PPC Linux has got only very limited support by gfxcard manufacturers. Did your efforts to change this matter bear any fruit so far?
A : Within the context of reasonably bounded commercial opportunity, the answer is certainly yes. As a broad release to the world of open soft software, the answer is probably no. We speak regularly with Andrew Schmied, GM, Embedded Products of ATI and have had a couple of recent discussions with Taner Ozcelik who holds the same position at nVIDIA. Let's just say we are working on it.
Q : There has also been a switch: a switch from YellowDogLinux to FedoraPPC (Red Hat). So as a Customer: Yesterday the Peg comes with Debian GNU/Linux, followed by Yellow Dog, now Red Hat, tomorrow with OpenSuSE or Ubuntu? Some would buy it as ODW with Gentoo's Linux flavor, or possibly next time with Vidal Linux flavor of Gentoo...
The only thing in common is: Linux. But the flavor for the Pegasos seems to switch a little bit too fast? As YDL is also widely based on Red Hat, what was the reason to switch?
A : There is no switching here, we are just adding more options.
Providing a choice is the nexus of the value. The standard ODW will have Fedora and OpenSUSE added to the list above shortly.
Q : What about Novell/SuSE Linux Enterprise Server (Novell SLES) Power/PPC and Novell OpenSuSE? A chance to get a popular distribution on the PPC?
A : Working on it now. SLES 10 will work out of the box. It is being tested now. OpenSUSE and SUSE 10 have the same code base.
Q : What kind of support would be offered with the Pegasos and Red Hat / Fedora? 24x7 a.s.o
A : Check it out:
You have to start somewhere!
Q : With the switch of Apple, the LinuxPPC community will become a community not driven by indivduals, it would be more driven by companies like IBM, Montavista, ..., the community will get into stagnation and then at the end a very, very little community. With other words, abroads from IBM this community will slow down, will decrease and die... or do you think there is a chance?
A : Not likely... look at Power.org/ , look at our recent press releases...
Things are about to heat up... ;-)
Q : (cont.) It will be a little community, especially when it comes to the desktop... Servers (IBM/Power), embedded (Montavista) are possibly prospering...
A : We think IBM and Freescale have begun to realize that every developer needs a desktop. It should be one hosted on PowerPC if we are to believe there is a future to the architecture. Things are happening.
Look at this, IBM just updated it!
Q : Did Apple destroy the LinuxPPC community en passant?
A : How? There will be years more of PowerPC based developer-relevant
hardware in the market even if Apple no longer makes it. Personally, we do not think Apple will move out of the PowerPC as quickly as they claim. Hey! There are still developers using CBM equipment! :-)
Q : Does the PegasosPPC package come with any OS copy or LiveCD to have something in your hands you can start with?
A : Not today, but we should make some progress in this direction. We should. Of course, there are downloadable CD's online for many things through PPCZone.
Q : MorphOS and Pegasos have been a team since the beginning of the project - and a differentiation factor for this hardware. Why did you stop shipping MorphOS together with PegasosPPC?
A : Because the version of MorphOS that we felt we could ship was basically locked to a June 2003 release date. We did provide some limited developer support after that date, but not enough to continue to ship it with the platform. Nevertheless, we continue to support MorphOS in an enthusiastic, but limited way. We have endeavored and
continue to promote MorphOS to strategic partners and potential strategic partners. We would like to find a big pile of cash for MorphOS and a long term revenue opportunity. We are trying and as long as we keep trying the chances are good we will succeed.
Q : Do you think OpenSolaris will be a success on relatively slow boxes like 1GHz G4s? Sun didn't make successful inroads into the embedded market with Solaris...
Sun also failed constantly to establish an alternative way of desktop-computing... Why should it be better with OpenSolaris?
A : Solaris has 20+ years of commercial success and numerous Governmental levels of certification. We think OpenSolaris is going to have a huge impact on the IT landscape. We are waiting to see the first signs of hybrid development between OpenSolaris and PowerPC. For example, this new site portends for some exciting things to come:
This is going to spark a lot of new and exciting development. We think OpenSolaris will benefit from that too.
Q : OSX/Darwin: The expectations of Apple with Darwin were not fulfilled. There is no kernel-hacker (hacker as mentioned by Eric S. Raymond) community or a rich opensource community around Darwin. Darwin got things running, ported at application level - nice. One could say:
Darwin as an OS is not widely accepted by the community, no matter if Darwin on IA86 or on PPC. Apple must do mostly by themselves. Why would this not happen to OpenSolaris?
A : It could... ;-)
Q : "A total system solution" - the Avalanche initiative seemed to strive for a convincing PPC and Linux ecosystem with hardware scaling from handheld devices to a clustered server farm - everything based on basic PegasosPPC technology - and software holding everything together. Any update you can give us?
A : No, not yet. We are still working on it!
Q : Will the EFIKA MPC5200 platform be a new member of that product family?
A : Sure.
Q : Does a real perspective exist for Genesi in China? Do you have any licensees for your IP yet?
A : The ODW is the primary machine found in the MII-Freescale National Linux Lab. We spoke to Nikolay Guenov, the Freescale Manager yesterday. Things are going fine. We also participated in the Power.org/IBM hosted event in Shanghai last week. What can we say? The "long march" has begun. :-)
Q : The Pegasos has not always been instantly available in the past. What is the situation now and what are the average production lots each month?
A : If you buy one today, it will ship within hours or the next day worldwide.
Our production runs are based on big orders. We make a few more every time we do for stock. We make lots of them.
Q : You recently started to offer a smart card reader with USB2 card for the Open Desktop Workstation. Does the ODW include this bundle as standard or does it remain strictly optional?
A : It is an option, but for selected Developers that we send free machines we include it all.
Q : Pegasos ships with 1GHz 7447 for 20 months now and you went through three VGA CPU cooler revisions without achieving the goal of passively cooling the moderately clocked G4. The competition is offering 2GHz 7447A with Dynamic Frequency Switching, dual 1.8GHz G4 upgrades or a system
with a single variable spin fan in the case of Mac Mini. May we still hope for better CPU cards and will Pegasos II be supported beyond the upcoming MPC7448?
A : Yes, you can expect a better cooling solution.
The Digital Entertainment System we prototyped runs completely without fans.
0dB computing is not too far off for PegasosPPC land.
Can the Pegasos II be supported beyond the 7448? That depends on Freescale's CPU evolution. In any case, with AltiVec the CPU and platform will be useful for years to come. Clearly, integrating the northbridge and other functionality together with the CPU on one chip will optimize performance and hopefully reduce cost.
Q : What are your plans for - a) Cell
A : That is up to IBM. At least today we are much closer to them than a year ago. Many things are changing post-Lenovo.
Q : b) PPC970FX or 970MP ("G5")
A : Working on this now. We just announced this.
Q : c) MPC8641D?
A : We need the silicon first! :-)
We do have major league companies buying the ODW now to target development for that new chip.
Q : d) IBM Power ?
A : See above...
Q : e) Intel or AMD ? (well, a popular company just switched... ;-D )
A : Not likely today!
Q : There exist two new boards for Freescale's most recent G4 CPUs, including PCI-X, SATA and Gigabit Ethernet, the HPC I "Pegasos 2.5" and the HPC II - the latter being actively promoted as an evaluation and developement server platform by Freescale. What role did Genesi/bplan play in these projects?
A : 1. Gerald and Thomas debugged the board and made a significant contribution to the success of the project.
2. We ported the Pegasos HAL/OF to both boards enabling all the software found today on the ODW to work on these platforms as well. This speaks volumes for the HAL/OF approach as the Discovery III and the Tsi108 are different than the Discovery II found on the PegasosPPC. Both ports were done in less than ten days. That is a major step ahead for the sort of development that used to take months to do.
Q : You recently announced your G4 High Performance Blade project to continue and be launched in Q4 2005. Many companies do not have such a big space problem compared to cooling problems which are difficult to handle in a very high density Blade environment. How are you going to solve these issues and which G4 CPUs will be used (e.g. 7448 1.7GHz needs up to 30W)?
A : Wait and see. :-) Also, think about this...
It may not be necessary to run the nodes at full load. Achieving watt/cycle performance is the target.
Q : Will you use a custom rack provided by Genesi or is it some industry standard formfactor? Any prototype pictures?
A : Everything will conform to industry standards. No pictures! :-)
Q : With the recent Apple Switch, will a powerful PPC desktop remain on your roadmaps or do you concentrate on mobile and increasingly embedded PPC devices?
A : The desktop is elemental to everything we do.
Q : Where does "CHRP2" (Remark: Commom Hardware Reference Plattform 2) come into play for your standardization plans, what is it and what is it not? And who is onboard?
A : We are working with both Freescale and IBM on this. "CHRP 2" is not really what we are really doing. Developing another 600 page document is not the trick. The Pegasos HAL/OF provides a logical successor to the CHRP standard replacing hardware dependent code with API callbacks to an abstraction layer that provides a common interface to operating systems and/or applications as required. That is different.
Q : As for desktopsystems: what would the Pegasos Linux PPC answer to Sony's PS/3 Cell Linux System be?
A : Well, when the Sony system is here we will let you know. :-)
Q : And, btw, the past shows that also the XBox could be used for Linux...we can assume that the XBox 360 will be also used as "Linux Device"... Would XBox and PS/3 offer a chance for the PPC Community to survive?
A : The LinuxPPC Community is in no danger of extinction, just as open source software development is [not] going to shrivel up and die tomorrow. PowerPC was about to experience a re-birth whether Apple stuck around or not.
Q : What can the PegasosPPC do better than other computer systems, why should our readers decide for Pegasos with Linux PPC or other less common Operating Systems running on that platform? What are the applications / environments just available for only this special platform, for example something like Motorola's Metrowork CodeWarrior?
A : Please visit our website. Every time we think we have something going for us in the regard we do our best to mention it. We think this message is the right one, but you can expect it to be updated with some really cool and new stuff soon.
Q : And when ?
A : As FAST as we can!
We like to thank Raquel Velasco and Bill Buck.
(c) Copyright PPCNUX, Förderverein für PowerPC und Unix-Derivate e.V.
[Update 2005-10-11: Überarbeitung, leichte Korrekturen]