Thursday, March 22, 2018

Open platforms and 21 or Anniversary.Next^6

This covers my 6th blog aligned with my work anniversary, a successor to http://vzimmer.blogspot.com/2017/02/this-one-is-for-20-or-anniversarynext5.html. I always mean to post this on the anniversary day, but I'm a bit laggard this year. Luckily this is a personal blog with random musings, so I don't have to worry about conformance to an SLA or other criteria... This anniversary year marks crossing the 21 year marker. As a multiple of 7, we have both a lucky number and also a milestone for sabbatical eligibility.

The journey has taken many twists and turns, commencing in 1997 with joining Intel to work on Merced https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Itanium boot firmware for server platforms. Merced was Intel's first 64-bit Itanium CPU. I am awed by scope of firmware changes, from that era of bringing up a new CPU, leading to events like this week where an open source EDKII based server firmware is announced at the Open Compute Project (OCP) Conference https://youtu.be/Dh6N7Pj1CLs and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4a1QHQ76it8.

For the latter, the system stack roughly follows the figure shared with the OCP Open System Firmware (OSF) effort  http://files.opencompute.org/oc/public.php?service=files&t=1ab7018c4aac16910255681b2eff469f&download.  


The server provides a minimal viable product design based upon the Min-Platform that we introduced with client in https://github.com/tianocore/edk2-platforms/tree/devel-MinPlatform. The specific server platform is Mt. Olympus https://github.com/tianocore/edk2-platforms/tree/devel-MinPlatform/Platform/Intel/PurleyOpenBoardPkg/BoardMtOlympus described in http://www.opencompute.org/wiki/Server/ProjectOlympus.

Some of the design rationale for the minimum platform design approach can be found in https://github.com/tianocore/edk2-platforms/blob/devel-MinPlatform/Platform/Intel/MinPlatformPkg/Docs/A_Tour_Beyond_BIOS_Open_Source_IA_Firmware_Platform_Design_Guide_in_EFI_Developer_Kit_II%20-%20V2.pdf which has been updated to cover the server port.

Here are a couple of salient pages from this week's OCP deep-dive session on this topic https://2018ocpussummit.sched.com/event/DJ8H/firmware-the-final-frontier-achieving-the-promise-of-ocp-by-making-ocp-nodes-truly-open which describes work in the Open System Firmware (OSF) workstream http://opencompute.org/wiki/Open_System_Firmware


This is a forum where cloud service providers (CSP's), hardware, firmware, and software parties can engage on how to further ease development of servers in a more open, community fashion. This includes many types of lower-level boot firmware, OS hand-off interfaces, etc. Very much a pragmatic, 'getting things done' type of group.

Again back to the scale of scale. For the original Itanium we had closed source SAL, PAL, BIOS, and partially open source EFI sample. Now we can build a server image from content off the web. Quite the evolution over these last 2 decades.

Beyond the bits and bytes of the technology, the view of others on platform firmware standards like UEFI and ACPI is sometimes amusing. For example, many people type 'uEFI' (micro-EFI?) versus the full UEFI, or pronounce UEFI as 'YOO-FEE.'  We typically just pronounce each letter, U-E-F-I. Less often I've heard ACPI as ACK-PEE, including Heasman in his '07 talk https://www.blackhat.com/presentations/bh-usa-07/Heasman/Presentation/bh-usa-07-heasman.pdf. This reminds me of my teen-age years, pre-internet, and growing up in Texas, when I'd read a lot of philosophy books, including Berkeley and Hegel. When I later had an opportunity to discuss these writers with others, I'd invariably mispronounce the names (e.g., HEGEL versus HAY-GEL, BERKLEY versus BARK-LEY). I guess we've all had this problem of reading a name for years but not hearing it spoken aloud.

It's time to close this tardy blog. I surely missed addressing some interesting events since my last blog posting given the many month absence from blogging. As such, the choice of topics herein less represent overall importance than proximity in time. So please assess using that lens.

© 2018, Vincent ZimmerThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License 
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