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How can the AMD EPYC "Rome" 7002 series be even better? Open source BIOS / Coreboot




  AMD -

Now you've probably seen the amazing performance of AMD's new "Rome" 7002 series processors. The performance is phenomenal and generally blows well past Intel's Xeon Cascade Lake processors. So it's all good, and it can be even better off performance: I asked AMD about the prospects for Coreboot / open source BIOS support and got a surprising response.

At an event in Austin last month when AMD spoke to Rome, when they did not talk about the new server CPU performance potential, they often mentioned the security of the chip. It set the stage for getting open source support and Coreboot support without coming across as just an open source / nerd question. After all, if their lower levels were (again) open source, it would ensure a more audible startup process and ensure the integrity of their Platform Security Processor (PSP) and the like, which are important at this time and try to ensure there are no unpleasant back doors to the system. Companies like Facebook and Google are also really interested in this open source functionality with their work with the likes of Coreboot and LinuxBoot.

So I asked Forrest Norrod, SVP & GM of Datacenter and Embedded Solutions Business Group, about the prospect of seeing such open source support or Coreboot opportunities. Foremost though to my surprise they are basically working on it. He did not provide a detailed explanation of expected deliveries or any timeline, but that they are aware of the situation and are working on it.

Let's not forget – years ago they actually provided the support. Back in 2011, they were talking about Coreboot support for all future CPUs (and supporting some CPUs with Coreboot for a few years), and a while back gave open source AGESA releases, but in the Zen era we haven't seen any of it from AMD. When they were in financial difficulties, these ways changed.

Forrest pointed out that apparently an obstacle they are working to overcome is the ability to publish the source code. He was quick to explain that AMD has all the source code and that they do not collect any arbitrary binary clutter for the processors / chip sets, but that they needed to obtain the rights to publish some of the code. It appeared to be at least one of the obstacles to curbing such open source efforts and what other organizations also face when it comes to open and purchasing large and complex codebases, often with different kinds of intermediate layers.

So that was a pretty broad response, but it looks like AMD is working on it and is aware of the customer's needs. Especially now with the EPYC 7002 series bringing in more industry benefits, including from Google as their cloud, it increases the chances of seeing more open source code from the company, given Google's route and working around LinuxBoot / Coreboot and wants to ensure maximum security. If I find out more about AMD's plans, it will certainly be provided when the time comes.

Worth noting that something related is that the Zen-based Hygon Dhyana is working with Coreboot activation and AMD Picasso APU activation for Coreboot has also seen code usage in recent months. On the Picasso consumer front, driven by Google's demands for Chromebook hardware. But apart from that, as it stands today, AMD Coreboot support is largely limited to generations of old hardware; Years later, Opteron boards are still popular with the pure free software audience, and even as late as this year, the Opteron motherboard is being blessed by the Free Software Foundation for being open source at the lowest levels.

Also, let's not forget that Intel is also working on opening the open source FSP code. It was a story Phoronix first reported in December last year. The last thing I heard from Raja when I was up in the mountains of Washington for OSTS 2019 was that it was still working on, and hopefully we would hear more later in the year. So the prospect is good for coming back to days of seeing better Coreboot support for modern (and powerful) server hardware platforms besides POWER9 / Raptor, though Intel can still be blended by the Management Engine (ME) and other bits. [19659004Tideneerabsoluttinteressanteforåkommevidereogdetharaldriværtsåkonkurransedyktigiserverområdet/datacenter



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