IBM Opens High-Performance A2O POWER Core, Open Cognitive Environment via the OpenPOWER Foundation

Company continues open sourcing key technologies under permissive licenses as it aims to offer competition to RISC-V.

IBM has announced another pair of contributions to the OpenPOWER Foundation in its continued bid to position the POWER instruction set architecture (ISA) as a key player in the free and open source silicon field: the A2O POWER core, and the Open Cognitive Environment (Open-CE) for artificial intelligence (AI) and deep learning projects.

IBM announced that it was taking the POWER ISA open last year, donating it to the OpenPOWER Foundation in a bid to set it up as an alternative to the well-established RISC-V ISA and a permissively-licensed option for those looking to migrate away from proprietary ISAs like Arm and x86. Since then, IBM has been donating not only the underlying ISA but also supporting technologies and full implementations - including Microwatt, a fully-open 64-bit POWER processor core IP designed for low-energy embedded device usage.

Now, it's opened another core: A2O, a performance-focused follow-up to the A2I core it released earlier this year. "I'm excited to announce the opening of the out-of-order A2O core design," OpenPOWER Foundation and IBM director Mandy Furmanek told attendees at the virtual OpenPOWER Summit this week. "A2O provides enhanced single-thread performance and is a perfect companion to the highly scalable 4-way SMT commercialized A2I core. These, combined with the ease of entry Microwatt core, do an excellent job of showcasing the versatility of the Power ISA."

At the same time, the company announced it was releasing a version of its PowerAI, previously made available as the IBM Watson Machine Learning Community Edition, under an open license as the Open Cognitive Environment (Open-CE). Designed to increase the accessibility of existing deep learning and artificial intelligence frameworks, including TensorFlow and PyTorch, Open-CE offers a source-to-image workflow based on Kubernetes.

Both the A2O POWER core and Open-CE are published on GitHub under permissive licenses: A2O POWER is made available under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license, with additional rights for creating soft-core implementations granted via the OpenPOWER Foundation, and Open-CE is published under the Apache 2.0 license.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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