The OMI Microprocessor Architecture Project will be the central part of the European Microprocessor Initiative (OMI). It will evaluate market requirements for general-purpose processors across a wide range of applications, and develop the architecture of a new family of European microprocessor components. The architecture will be designed to exploit the technology of the mid-1990s to support high-performance, low-cost low-power or macrocell implementations. The components will exploit novel architectural techniques (such as dynamic instruction scheduling and ultra-fast context switching) to provide virtual processing, virtual memory and virtual communications in scalable general-purpose parallel computers.
The background behind the open microprocessor systems initiative (OMI) is summarized. Concerns about the European information technology industry and the overall strategy are voiced. The work going on in a small pilot project (the microprocessor architecture project) is described. It is intended to explore the areas in more detail so that the OMI initiative would not suffer a gap of 2 years between the conception and strategy and actual projects starting.
Components, machines, macrocells and software conforming to this architecture will be developed within other ESPRIT projects (for example, IPS-2 project 5404, GP-MIMD, will develop components for high-performance computers). It is expected that further projects will exploit the architecture to develop workstations, provide components for embedded systems, and provide macrocell support.
Particular attention will be paid to minimising the costs of software migration from current architectures and systems. This will be achieved through a combination of processor emulation, the definition of a virtual binary interface, and the adoption and creation of appropriate international standards.
Bull will lead a workpackage involving the system companies (Olivetti, Acorn, ABC, Siemens, INMOS) to define system requirements and to subsequently evaluate the architecture against these requirements. INMOS will lead a workpackage concerned with the detailed architectural specification, and Siemens will lead a workpackage on implementation studies. Olivetti will lead the workpackage concerned with standards and compatibility.
This project is the central - but only initial - step in the Open Microprocessor Initiative, and the consortium will establish a management board to coordinate activities within the OMI.
As well as the direct industrial interest of the participating semiconductor and systems companies, it represents a key component in an important strategic activity for the future of the European electronic systems industry as a whole.
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