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Collaborated open source efforts fuel creative energy for 5G, AI and edge computing developments
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To help potential users, target users and partners better understand how the Open Compute Project (OCP) organization can benefit data centers, edge computing and other applications, the OCP Foundation, Cloud Computing and IoT Association in Taiwan (CIAT)/OCPT, Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) and Taipei Computer Association co-hosted the first annual OCP Taiwan Day at the Taipei International Convention Center alongside Computex 2019.

The theme of the event, "The road to 5G, AI and edge computing," gave a clear picture about what the event would focus on – collaborated research achievements and open source contributions OCP and its members have made over the years in 5G, AI and edge computing. Executives and experts from the open source community, including OCP, ITRI, Microsoft, MiTAC, Delta, Open Networking Foundation (ONF), Edgecore, Intel, Wiwynn and Yahoo JP, gathered at the event to provide insights into a myriad of topics encompassing the results of OCP projects and subprojects, AI edge computing, smart cloud innovations and building smart, efficient, and green data centers.

Open source contributions meet four tenets - efficiency, openness, scalability and impact

According to OCP community director Archna Haylock, the organization leads a host of projects and subprojects, including: the Open Networking Linux (ONL), Open Network Install Environment (ONIE), Switch Abstraction Interface (SAI) and Software for Open Networking in the Cloud (SONiC) subprojects under the Networking Project; the Advanced Cooling Solutions (ACS), Power Shelf Interoperability (PSI) and Open Rack V3 subprojects under the Rack & Power Project Group; the Archival Storage and Cloud HDD Fast Fail Read subprojects under the Storage Project; and the PCIe 3.0 Mezzanine Card, Open Accelerator Infrastructure (OAI) and Open Domain-Specific Architecture (ODSA) subprojects under the Server Project.

More subprojects under the Data Center Facility Project, Telco Project and Hardware Management Project include Modular Data Center (MDC), openEDGE and Open RMC. OCP also drives additional projects in High Performance Computing (HPC), Open System Firmware (OSF) and Security. All OCP projects are contributed by the OCP ecosystem comprising organization members, integrated solution providers, suppliers and sales channel operators.

The OCP community continues to grow and now includes hundreds of corporate members. Thousands of engineers are engaged in the 10 OCP projects. Sunlai Chang, senior vice president and CTO, Wiwynn, noted OCP requires that all members self-examine their open source design contributions and workshops to ensure they meet the four core OCP tenets: efficiency, openness, scalability and impact.

Emily Hong, president and CEO, Wiwynn as well as chairperson, OCP Taiwan (OCPT), noted that OCPT, launched May 23, 2013, is among the organization's first few international chapters. Playing a critical role raising the IT community's awareness in Taiwan, OCPT focuses on coordinating industry efforts toward open design, promoting education and driving cross-industry contributions to all OCP projects.

ITRI was authorized to set up an OCP Certification Lab in 2014. Instead of "OCP Certified" marks, OCP-recognized products began to receive "OCP Accepted" or "OCP Inspired" marks in mid-2017 for the purpose of expanding the OCP application scope. The OCP Marketplace was also established in 2017.

Edge cloud drives 5G upgrade and AI edge computing becomes a focus of open source development

Rajeerv Sharma, director, software & technologies, OCP, commented that by 2020, the number of connected devices will surge to 20 billion and IoT will generate 115 YB of data while collecting 1,587 EB of data. The amount of data growing at an astounding rate will drive demand for edge computing. The number of IoT devices supporting data processing at the edge of the network will top 5.6 billion by 2020.

Edge computing arises from such demand. According to Gartner, edge computing is part of the distributed computing topology, wherein the data generated or used by devices and users is processed at the edge. Chi-Long Wang, team leader, data center architecture and cloud application software, Information and Communications Research Laboratories, ITRI, said cloud computing and edge computing are not mutually exclusive approaches but actually complement each other, rather than compete against each other.

Edge computing has become a force driving 5G upgrade. According to a Gartner report, by 2020, 30% of the service providers delivering 5G services will also offer edge computing services and 50% of enterprise data will be created and processed outside of traditional data centers or cloud. Edge virtualization and its use on edge cloud will be a fundamental force driving 5G development.

According to Wang, eye-catching opportunities will actually come from the combination of AI and edge computing, which will be built on the basis of 5G or high-speed wired/wireless network, edge data centers performing computation and deep learning neural network image processing applications. Development tool kits available for such purposes include Intel OpenVINO for inferencing and Google Edge TPU for predictive maintenance, anomaly detection, machine vision and other widespread uses. AI edge computing can be applied in smart surveillance, image-based remote patient monitoring in smart hospitals, AI-based medical image analysis and new-generation smart retail and smart manufacturing.

Murugasamy Nachimuthu, principal engineer, Intel, noted that Intel has made several innovations openly available to drive edge computing advances, including remote management, open firmware and simplified firmware, firmware resilience as well as rack and power management.

Open source design extending from hardware to firmware security enables flexible boot up mechanism for heterogeneous systems

According to Wei-Yang Ding, chief technology officer, Microsoft Taiwan, Microsoft joined OCP in 2014 and introduced its next generation rack-level solution – Project Olympus within OCP's Server Project in 2016. By engaging community collaborations, Project Olympus enabled a new open source hardware development model through a modular architecture with which the designs of components including the rack, universal power monitoring distribution unit, air blocker, accelerator and universal motherboard are made open to the public as they are being developed.

In 2017, Microsoft further introduced Project Cerberus - the next phase of Project Olympus. Project Cerberus extends open source hardware development to include security implementations for open source firmware and I/O devices. The hardware root of trust is finally expanded to encompass peripheral I/O devices. Project Cerberus specifications are open to the public. All Project Olympus motherboards are deployed with Cerberus security. Furthermore, Project Denali, launched in 2018, redefined the rules for large-scale flash storage and introduced new EDSFF-based SSD designs.

The latest Project Zipline announced in 2019 is Microsoft's cutting-edge compression algorithm suitable for both traditional data sets such as system logs and modern data sets such as IoT remote sensor data. Project Zipline is particularly tailored to usage models including network data processing, edge computing, IIoT and big data analytics.

System firmware today typically runs on server nodes installed on racks in cloud centers and is mostly of closed architectures. When different silicon solution providers each have their own boot-up process and silicon interface, the need to have "Single Implementation" can hardly be satisfied. Also, with the current firmware development model being unable to keep up with the needs of many cloud hardware manufacturers, OCP's OSF Project comes into play.

Sharma said that we need a silicon interface firmware module (SIFM) that can flexibly support the start-up mechanisms of wide-ranging heterogeneous systems. With SIFM, users can boot up Linux systems from Coreboot (formerly LinuxBIOS) through the help of Intel or AMD. Users can even boot up Windows systems via open-source Linuxboot.

OCP saves DC power and footprint and accelerates deployment

OCP is working on the planning and promotion of its Rack and Power Project, of which the OpenRMC subproject focuses on rack management. In more detail, the rack management controller (RMC) is a dedicated hardware device managing a plurality of racks both on the computation level and the rack level. The controller supports all network packet interface specifications, including Redfish, Swordfish, I2C, WebGUI, IPMI and SSH.

Commenting on the reason and importance for data centers to incorporate OCP, Hancock Chang, MiTAC OCP Technical and System Lead, pointed out OCP delivers excellent power usage effectiveness (PUE) and low PUE reduces OPEX. An OCP server reduces OPEX by 35% and saves data center footprint by 50% compared to a conventional rack server. With its tool-less design, OCP servers can accelerate data center deployment.

MiTAC contributed the OCP ESA specification in July 2018, which supports EIA standard equipment and OCP solutions in the same rack without the need to rebuild conventional server rooms or data centers. Furthermore, it achieves energy and cost savings, speeds up implementation, enables interchangeability and gives users the freedom to choose suppliers.

Richard Chan, Delta technology director, spoke about the company's DC facility development strategy and said Delta's requirement on data center infrastructure management (DCIM) is moving from real-time monitoring and management at present to overload prediction based on machine learning and PUE modeling and optimization. To lower CAPEX and OPEX, Delta demands WBG devices to achieve 98% PSU and UPS efficiency and improves overall DC efficiency through the battery management system. For availability and reliability enhancements, Delta is upgrading from the current use of redundancy design and warning system to predictive maintenance implementations leveraging machine learning, big data analytics and proactive maintenance. For quick deployment, Delta is transitioning from pod-based data centers to containerized high-density power modules.

Nachimuthu noted Intel is committed to developing optimized high-density cloud platforms and offers them to the OCP community through open source contributions with Inspur. Intel has also introduced a solution to improve data center thermal management efficiency with a power trend predictor, which is contributed to the OCP DC Facility Project.

Intel also open sourced its own Platform Resource Manager (PRM), Firmware Support Package (FSP) and Coreboot through the OSF Project. There is also Storage Disaggregation based on the NVMe over Fabrics (NVMe-of) architecture made available by Intel.

According to Sunlai Chang, senior vice president and CTO, Wiwynn, its two-phase immersion cooling system is capable of supporting the operation of up to 100 OCP TiogaPass server motherboards. The overall system design enables easy maintenance and eliminates the need for fans, heat sinks and facility air conditioning. It achieves not only lower PUE but also 40% more saving on energy costs compared to existing water cooling systems. Furthermore, integrated with 48V and Power Pooling technologies, Wiwynn's solution can reduce 12V power transmission loss by 93%.

Open source developments drive continuous availability of high-quality 5G network applications and services

ONF researcher Charles Chan noted ONF is an operator-led open source initiative aiming to promote the integration of telecom edge cloud, open source software, distributed hardware and cloud technologies. CORD is ONF's flagship project for such purpose. Another noteworthy point is the availability of the new reference design known as SEBA (SDN enabled broadband access) built on the CORD platform.

ONF also leads the development of a myriad of open source modular components, including VOLTHA, which abstracts the passive optical network (PON) network to appear as a programmable Ethernet switch to an SDN controller, Trellis, which manages multi-purpose leaf-spine fabric architecture, and NG-SDN, the next-generation software-defined network matching innovative services with programmable pipeline and unified interface.

George Tchaparian, president and CEO, Edgecore, remarked the advent of the 5G era spurs AI and edge computing developments, which in turn trigger massive demand for bandwidth earlier than expected. Adoption of 5G communication, AI and edge computing will also bring new expectations and needs for network services with continuous availability and high quality. This will also boost operation efficiency and drive the development of ultra-low latency and smart applications. To keep CAPEX at bay while putting appropriate infrastructure in place, it is imperative that businesses plan their strategies along the lines of openness, white-box business model, hardware disaggregation and automation.

According to Sunlai Chang, 5G brings OCP benefits to a wide variety of new applications. OCP will work with other organizations including the Linux Foundation (LF) and ONF to make a stronger impact. Telecom operators will embrace openness, allowing existing equipment to commercialize. OCP will benefit three 5G specifications - enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB), massive Machine Type Communications (mMTC) and Ultra Reliable Low Latency Communications (URLLC). Edge computing products developed in accordance with OCP OpenEDGE spec can expand 5G and edge computing user ecosystem and enrich the options.

In 2015, Microsoft announced its networking OS Azure Cloud Switch (ACS) specifically for software-define network (SDN), which supports the OCP Switch Abstraction Interface (SAI). The specification has been officially accepted by OCP as a standardized C API to program ASICs. In the following year, Microsoft was the first to take part in OCP SONiC for the purpose of enabling its SDN software to easily manage all hardware components on the network. It then open sourced the innovative breakthrough in network switch operation and management.

Built on SAI, SONiC allows network operators to fully leverage rapid advances in silicon, CPU, power supply, port density as well as optical network and speed while ensuring ROI for their investment in a unified software solution for cross-platform operations. SONiC is the first solution to separate switch software into multiple containerized components. It enables fine-grained failure recovery and in-service upgrades with zero downtime.

With the container design, operators can minimize the efforts needed to add new components and incorporate third-party, self-developed or open-source software. They can also customize SONiC to suit specific use scenarios. Going forward, Microsoft looks to have data centers fully support SONiC and further expand it to network and wide-area network access control.

OCP enables significant cost reductions at Yahoo!Japan, completely unshackled from vendor lock-in

Kazuhide Fujimi, server infrastructure engineer from Yahoo!Japan, noted that in order to reduce costs for hardware installation and management, Yahoo!Japan decided four years ago to embrace OCP. As the OCP market and ecosystem mature, the unit costs of OCP servers and racks have come down sharply. The company started massive adoptions about two years ago, and so far over 4,000 computing nodes at its three datacenters run on the OCP architecture.

Over the last four years, Yahoo!Japan has not only enriched its experience and technological know-how using the open-source architecture, but also saved substantial amounts, including 29% in cost reductions for server units, and a 18% decrease in rack costs. And because OCP completely avoids vendor lock-in, the company has a lot of flexibility in purchasing hardware peripherals and components. As it takes longer lead time to deploy OCP servers and racks, and the OCP racks are wider in length than standard ones, careful planning for the server room is needed. Currently Yahoo!Japan maintains a mixed-rack deployment strategy, but will gradually increase the proportion of OCP in the future.

DIGITIMES' editorial team was not involved in the creation or production of this content. Companies looking to contribute commercial news or press releases are welcome to contact us.

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