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AMD Preparing "openSIL" For Open-Source Silicon Initialization With Coreboot
The schedule for next month's Open Compute Project (OCP) Regional Summit in Prague was published this week and it contains a very juicy reveal. AMD will be presenting on openSIL as their new open-source project around x86 silicon initialization.
While about a decade ago AMD was big into Coreboot and at the time committed to it for future hardware platforms (2011: AMD To Support Coreboot On All Future CPUs), open-source AGESA at the time, did a lot of enabling around it, that work had died off... In more recent years, AMD's Coreboot contributions have largely been limited to select consumer APU/SoC platforms for Google Chromebook use. But issues around closing up the AGESA as well as concerns with the AMD Platform Security Processor (PSP) have diminished open-source firmware hopes in recent years.
It was long ago in the Opteron days when AMD first was pushing open-source firmware and Coreboot... On the server side at least it looks like with 4th Gen EPYC "Genoa" there is a new light with the forthcoming AMD openSIL and Coreboot.
There has though been some independent efforts working to improve open-source AMD Coreboot support and getting more (modern) hardware working with it to free the proprietary BIOS. It's also been something I've continued to raise with AMD multiple times at events/briefings over the years. There's been some signs of hope going back to 2019 but no major action announced... But it looks like that is about to change.
For the OCP Regional Summit in prague, there is a new entry added with a title of OSF on AMD – Enabled by openSIL (yes, folks, OSF as in "Open-Source Firmware"). Here's the full talk description;
"Silicon & Platform initialization is a critical part of the life cycle of an SoC and the platform on which it is hosted. It not only determines the sequence in which the system turns on, but in some cases, the overall compute performance and security of the system. It provides the necessary firmware components required for initializing platform host silicon including the processor, chipset, peripheral controllers, and interfaces. Lack of scalability, sustainability and large TCB are often the roadblocks to ease of integration and high security to IFVs and CSPs/MDCs. openSIL (AMD open-source x86 Silicon Initialization Library) offers the versatility, scalability, and light weight interface to allow for ease of integration with open-source and/or proprietary host boot solutions such as coreboot, UEFI and others and adds major flexibility to the overall platform design. In other words, this library-based solution simply allows a platform integrator to scale from feature rich solutions such as UEFI to slim, lightweight, and secure solutions such as coreboot.
The presentation will briefly explore the problem statements, solution architecture, roadmap, and specifics on the open-sourcing of the openSIL, and is complemented with a few demonstrations by AMD led Industry Coalition highlighting system bring-up using openSIL integrated with coreboot and UEFI Host Firmware stacks on AMD’s Genoa based platforms. We will share the motivations that drove this shift in paradigm, explaining the benefits of leveraging AMD’s open-source openSIL technology for the OCP community and beyond."
The talk will be hosted by Raj Kapoor, AMD's Chief Firmware Architect.
Now that is pretty damn exciting: open-source AMD x86 silicon initialization library and integration with Coreboot... I am clamoring to learn more. There is some concern though that this may be limited to just AMD server platforms and not benefit AMD Ryzen consumer hardware with this open-source support, but hopefully that won't be the case or that it will be open enough to be unofficially extended to help outside of just AMD EPYC servers. This may also be highly tailored to system integrators and not anything AMD Linux end customers will be directly toying with, but with the Coreboot developer community and the like hopefully this will prove to be a monumental shift for open-source firmware in the HPC server space.
The next OCP Regional Summit is happening in Prague on 19 to 20 April. The AMD openSIL talk is for 20 April.
It's terrific in any event to see this open-source low-level work happening by AMD. It's likely in response to increasing industry interest around open-source firmware by the hyperscalers and other parties. Much of the open-source firmware interest in recent years has been in the name of ensuring greater transparency/security. It's also with AMD EPYC 9004 series "Genoa" where AMD's reference server is running OpenBMC as the open-source Linux-based BMC solution in place of a proprietary software stack.
This would be a dream come true for many open-source enthusiasts longing to see a modern, high performance system with proper open-source firmware support. At the moment the most open-source server platforms backed by fully open firmware are Raptor Computing's POWER9-based servers that have begun to show their age while newer POWER10 isn't as open-source friendly - at least not yet.
On the Intel side, they do enable some of their reference platforms for Coreboot in addition to various Chromebook-focused designs. So in some regards the current Coreboot level of support with Intel hardware has been better than AMD, but still blocked from open-source firmware due to their Firmware Support Package (FSP). For years there have been calls to open-source the Intel FSP to no avail though recently Google and Intel have been working to increase the flexibility around FSP blobs. With that and any pressure from AMD OpenSIL, 2023 could be very interesting on the open-source firmware front.
What isn't immediately clear from the talk abstract is whether openSIL is complementary to AGESA (AMD Generic Encapsulated Software Architecture), a sanitized open-source version of it, or ultimately a clean replacement of it for platform/silicon initialization. In any case I am very eager to learn more about AMD openSIL next month and set your calendars for April 20.