Collaborative foundation aims to boost MIPS adoption

The foundation will offer open-source OS distributions for MIPS, including Android, CentOS and Ubuntu

A collaborative, nonprofit foundation has been started by a group of technology companies to boost the adoption of the MIPS processor architecture.

Imagination Technologies, Broadcom, Cavium, Ikanos, Ineda Systems, Ingenic Semiconductor, Lantiq, Nevales Networks, PMC and Qualcomm have founded "prpl," an open-source, community-driven foundation,

Imagination Technologies said Thursday. The company also separately announced that it will collaborate with Oracle to enhance Java for embedded and Internet of Things applications, and to optimize Java for the MIPS CPU architecture.

MIPS implementations are mostly used in embedded systems such as routers and video game consoles, for instance, which could make them particularly useful for the burgeoning Internet of Things market.

Imagination has been pushing to expand the use of MIPS chips since it bought the financially struggling MIPS Technologies in 2012. Currently, more than 3 billion MIPS units have shipped, according to the company.

Each member company will provide its particular expertise to the foundation's engineering groups. For instance, Qualcomm will focus on networking and build a community around OpenWrt, an OS based on the Linux kernel that is often used to route network traffic.

"Instead of every company doing the work individually, they all come together in prpl. They do the work and every company benefits from that work," Imagination spokesman Alexandru Voica said.

Prpl will offer open-source OS distributions for MIPS, including Android, CentOS, Debian, Fedora and Ubuntu, essentially creating a repository for developers and others.

Working together in this way makes sense, said Richard Fichera, vice president and principal analyst of infrastructure and operations at Forrester Research. "As far as I can see, it is an intelligent strategy and program to boost MIPS, which has been under immense pressure from ARM for mobile device market share," he said.

Another focus of the foundation will be on enabling next-generation "data-center-to-device" portable software and virtualized architectures, Imagination said.

That strategy, however, is less to Fichera's liking. "MIPS lost its chance at the core data-center server market," he said, adding that he seriously doubts that anyone will invest in either silicon or systems to have another run at it.

"Any significant investment in a non-x86 server will be centered on ARM or possibly OpenPOWER rather than MIPS. However, MIPS is a perfectly good embedded compute resource, and is appearing in network-edge devices as programmable cores for both embedded network functions and as a user-programmable device," he added.

As for Imagination's collaboration with Oracle, the companies will work to bring broad Java support to 32-bit and 64-bit MIPS architectures for use in a broad range of applications including routers, other networking equipment, mobile devices and the Internet of Things, they said.

Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, open-source and online payment issues for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com

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