Intel BIOS Code Goes Open Source

The joint venture with CollabNet will release code and a driver development kit to the entire developer community later this year.
Intel has announced a joint venture with software maker CollabNet to release code for its next-generation firmware technology under an open source license.

According to an Intel release, the company will release what it calls "firmware foundation code" under the open source Common Public License (CPL) later this year. The code, along with a driver development kit, will allow companies to develop updated BIOS (Basic Input Output System) code--the software that enables the startup process in most PCs--as well as compatible hardware drivers.

Under the terms of the CPL, any changes to the foundation code or to the driver development kit will be made available to the entire developer community, including hardware developers and other silicon vendors.

CollabNet, which provides Web-based collaborative development technology and services, has contributed to several other major open source projects, including Apache, Eclipse and Python. CollabNet also provides the technology infrastructure for CVS, a popular open-source version control system.

BIOS software includes some of the oldest code in personal computers today, having used the same basic design in many cases for more than 20 years. Hardware vendors rely on this code to write driver software, creating significant performance and integration challenges.

Intel's new firmware foundation code, based on its Tiano project, is written in the C programming language, as opposed to the older languages used to write most current BIOS software. According to the Intel release, the new code will allow hardware makers to write more efficient drivers, while BIOS software vendors can use the code to implement more complex management and administration options that existing BIOS code cannot support.

"Because pre-boot firmware is a vital ingredient in all modern platforms, silicon vendors and system manufacturers require stability in the Foundation code to protect their investment in innovation," Will Swope, Intel vice president and general manager of the Software and Solutions Group said in a statement. "They expect unfettered access and collaborative control of changes so that interoperability can be maintained."

Tiano implements the Extensible Firmware Interface: an industry standard for defining how BIOS software works with next-generation operating systems. Two software makers, American Megatrends and Insyde Software, currently sell BIOS software based on Tiano. The largest BIOS vendor, however, Phoenix Technologies, does not yet support Tiano.

The open source community has launched a similar initiative, LinuxBIOS, intended to address power management and other issues associated with Linux-based portable computers.

*This story courtesy of

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