OCP Foundation Announces New Hardware-Software Co-Design Strategy

The OCP Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to bringing hyperscale innovations to everyone, has announced a new hardware-software co-design strategy. It is exemplified by Microsoft and Intel’s recent contributions to the OCP of the Scalable I/O (Input/Output) Virtualization (SIOV) specification, as well as a new collaboration with the SONiC Project, which is now at the Linux Foundation.

The relevance of hardware-software co-design is growing as software workloads become more diversified, necessitating specialized silicon to give top performance at an acceptable energy and environmental cost, stated the OCP Foundation. To enable greener software, system software, or firmware, would need to be created utilizing knowledge of the underlying hardware architecture to make suitable engineering trade-offs along the cost vs performance curve.

The Scalable I/O Virtualization definition, which Microsoft and Intel recently contributed, is a major example of OCP’s hardware-software co-design philosophy, in which SIOV provides a hardware and software architecture for mass-scale I/O virtualization. This specification would be an evolution of SR-IOV (single root input output virtualization), which removes scaling limitations by allowing 100s or 1,000s of VMs (virtual machines) or software containers to dynamically share a pool of I/O devices that meet the needs of today’s modern cloud native software.

The Open Compute Project (OCP) Foundation wants to build a strong community around SIOV so that it may serve as a catalyst for innovation in silicon and cloud architectures.

“Hardware-software co-design focuses on software that requires intimate knowledge of the hardware to drive maximum hardware performance, and speed time-to-market for hardware where system performance and ecological footprint can be highly dependent on software and hardware interactions,” said George Tchaparian, CEO at Open Compute Project Foundation. “As part of the OCP’s new hardware–software co-design strategy we are pleased to have new contributions from Microsoft and Intel and continue our collaboration with the SONiC Project at the Linux Foundation.”

The Linux Foundation

Photo George Tchaparian, CEO at OCP Foundation
“Hardware-software co-design focuses on software that requires intimate knowledge of the hardware to drive maximum hardware performance,” said George Tchaparian, CEO at OCP Foundation.

The SONiC Project joins the OCP and the Linux Foundation in their collaboration. Collaboration on the Switch Abstraction Interface (SAI) project, which is still at OCP, and SONiC, which is now at the Linux Foundation, continues in line with hardware-software co-design.

According to the OCP Foundation, this partnership allows the OCP to benefit from a greater adoption of SONiC by the Linux Foundation software development community, increasing demand for OCP-certified switch gear and opening new market verticals for OCP-certified equipment. While many hyperscale data center operators choose SONiC, other market segments require specific functionality, and SAI will let the industry to select the switch OS most suited to their needs.

“The market for Data Center Infrastructure continues to evolve with increased silicon diversity prompted by adoption of AI and ML workloads,” said Ashish Nadkarni, Group Vice President, Infrastructure Systems, Worldwide Infrastructure at IDC. “This diversity is reshaping the market which is under pressure to deliver the high-performance computational infrastructure that also manages its power and ecological footprint. These combinations of requirements make hardware-software co-design an imperative.”

Key Stakeholders’ Take

Intel (SIOV) – “Intel is committed to open standards as the fuel that powers inclusive, innovative ecosystems,” said Ronak Singhal, Senior Fellow and Chief Architect for Intel Xeon Roadmap & Technology at Intel. “By partnering with Open Compute Project to host the new Scalable I/O Virtualization (SIOV) specification, the whole CPU and PCIe device ecosystem can accelerate adoption of more scalable, efficient and high-performance I/O virtualization for the hyperscale era.”

Microsoft (SONiC) – “The open-source SONiC Network Operating System is enabling rapid innovation across the network ecosystem, and it began with the definition of the Switch Abstraction Interface (SAI) at OCP,” said Dave Maltz, SONiC Foundation Board Member and Technical Fellow/CVP, Microsoft. “OCP and SONiC have contributed tremendously to each other’s growth in the last several years.  SONiC is now joining the Linux Foundation to expand the communities and industries it serves. The OCP & LF SONiC Foundation will continue to work closely together across hardware and SAI specifications as part of the OCP’s hardware-software co-design strategy.”

The Linux Foundation – “The Linux Foundation is happy to welcome SONiC, a leader in open source data center NOS deployments, to our growing community of open networking projects and developer communities,” said Arpit Joshipura, General Manager, Networking, Edge, and IoT, the Linux Foundation. “As we focus on the software component of SONiC, we look forward to partnering with the Open Compute Foundation on aligning hardware and specifications such as SAI.”