Sun has quietly released engineering specifications for its UltraSparc chip, making the previously proprietary information available to open-source developers more than a month ahead of schedule.

Sun announced in December that it would open source its chip technology after releasing the eight-core T1 processor. It follows a decision to release Solaris to open-source developers. The specs are nowavailable online at www.opensparc.net.

Part of Sun’s goal is to get Linux ported to the T1. Linux can now run on UltraSparc chips but there hasn’t been much interest among users to do so, said IDC analyst Dan Kusnetzky

Users most likely to be interested in running Linux on Sparc have existing Sparc-based hardware and want to adopt Linux but don’t want to replace the server hardware, said Kusnetzky.

Open sourcing UltraSparc specs won't guarantee user adoption however, even if there are compelling reasons to use the chip. Third-party application vendors must also support and certify their applications to run on it, and tools will be needed to do so. "Throwing something over the wall and saying it's open-source is not going to create that ecosystem," said Kusnetzky.

Karen Anaya, chairwoman and CEO of Sparc International, said the plan to open-source the T1 is a positive move and that the group is expecting a T1 port to Linux. "We’re excited about it," she said.

Anaya said she believes that the release will draw third-party support.