SAN JOSE, Calif. Sun Microsystems Inc. and China's Ministry of Education (MoE) have signed a three-year agreement to bolster education in chip design using Sun's Sparc microprocessor technology. Under the deal, at least 100 educators a year will receive training on Sun's CPUs, and China will established an unspecified number of Sun centers of excellence.
"This is an opportunity to spread our architecture in a big way in a huge emerging market, and it's a key endorsement of Sparc that will generate some interesting innovations," said Fadi Azhari, director of marketing for Sun's multi-threaded processors.
"The key thrust of this program is a realization that the students of today and the programmers of tomorrow," Azhari said. "We want to have more hands and brains working on our technology," he added.
Sun has already established six academic design centers based on Sparc processors in the U.S. The effort aims to get a broader group of developers innovating on the CPUs and writing software for them.
Two years ago, Sun started making available register-transfer level software of its multi-threaded Niagara processors as a download. The software can be used to make free of charge clone processors or variations of them, as long as users openly share any modifications they make to the designs.
"We appreciate Sun's open source strategy, especially Sun's outstanding contribution in the open-sourced IC area, and we encourage the active cooperation effort between China's universities and Sun in teaching and research area," said Zhao Qinping, a vice minister of the MoE in a prepared statement. "We believe the cooperation will be beneficial in advancing China's teaching and research level in IC area," he added.
The deal "provides us a great opportunity to upgrade our processor and SoC design related curricula and research," said Wang Yangyuan, dean of the department of micro-electronics at Peking University.
No major commercial projects have been based on the open-source code for Sun's processors to date. So far a company in Italy and one in China have developed single-core versions of the Niagara processors in what Sun characterizes as early test chips.
"It's too early in the cycle. Lead times are long for microprocessor designs," said Shrenik Mehta, a senior director of Sun's OpenSparc program.