Sun, the sometimes and friend and sometimes foe of the Free/Open Source Software community, recently announced the release of their UltraSPARC CPU design under the GNU GPL. Called the OpenSPARC T1 R1.0, the release includes Verilog RTL, the verification environment and diagnostics, simulation and synthesis tools. They've also released hundreds of pages of documentation on the UltraSPARC architecture (PDF format). The UltraSPARC is a 64bit, chip multi-threaded (CMT) processor that runs at over 1GHz and boasts an array of advanced features. The OpenSPARC release is a whopping big 70MB download (seriously, don't click that link unless you want to download 70MB!). What this means is that the design can be used to create interesting new ASICs and SOCs without the usual hefty licensing fees. There are already a couple of projects underway to map the OpenSPARC core onto an FPGA. Linux will support OpenSPARC with the release of kernel 2.6.17. This is a substantial addition to the Open Hardware movement and could result in new, lower-cost and more powerful microcontrollers for, among other things, robots. More details can be found on the OpenSPARC website.