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Microsoft Gives Progress Report on 'Project Olympus'

Microsoft put the spotlight on its datacenter design effort called Project Olympus, including its partnerships with chip makers, during this week's Open Compute Project (OCP) U.S. Summit event.

First announced in October, Project Olympus is Microsoft's effort to accelerate the development of open hardware designs for datacenters by sharing information early in the design process. It's part of the Open Compute Project, which is an industry organization supporting open datacenter technologies.

Microsoft considers Project Olympus to be "the de facto open source cloud hardware design for the next generation of scale computing," according to an announcement by Kushagra Vaid, general manager of Microsoft Azure hardware infrastructure. It is enabling a choice of microprocessors for cloud infrastructure, he contended.

Project Olympus Chip Support
One partner that's collaborating with Microsoft on Project Olympus is AMD. It's working on integrating its code-named "Naples" x86 CPU as part of the effort, which supports up to 32 cores for cloud and premises-based datacenters. AMD is planning to launch the first Naples processors in Q2 this year. Naples is distinguished from other processors because of its extended memory access capability and "support for high-speed input/output channels in a single-chip SoC," according to AMD's announcement.

Another partner supporting Project Olympus is Intel. Intel and Microsoft have collaborated on adding Project Olympus support to Intel's Xeon ("Skylake") processors for datacenter hardware. The two companies also are contemplating integration efforts for Intel's field programmable gate array integrated circuits, as well as the Intel Nervana deep learning platform, according to Microsoft's announcement.

Nvidia and Ingrasys Technology collaborated with Microsoft on Project Olympus to produce a "hyperscale GPU accelerator chassis" for artificial intelligence workloads known as "HGX-1." The HGX-1 chassis uses Nvidia's "Pascal"-based graphical processing units (GPUs), as well as Nvidia's "NVLink high speed multi-GPU interconnect technology." When four HGX-1s are connected, it's possible to deliver high bandwidth of up to 32 GPUs. The design allows it to be plugged into various datacenters, according to Microsoft. Nvidia, which announced Wednesday that it had joined the OCP, indicated that HGX-1 can be used to address various AI computing needs such as "autonomous driving, personalized healthcare, superhuman voice recognition, data and video analytics, and molecular simulations."

Other Project Olympus partners with Microsoft include Cavium and Qualcomm, which are collaborating on providing ARM chips for Windows Server.

SONiC Switch Support
In other OCP news, Microsoft announced that there is a growing partner ecosystem behind its Software for Open Networking in the Cloud (SONiC) effort. SONiC, which is designed to add hardware switch flexibility for Linux systems in datacenters, is an open source OCP project that Microsoft unveiled last year. It uses Switch Abstraction Interface (SAI) technology that Microsoft contributed to the OCP earlier.

Microsoft this week claimed broad support for SONiC and SAI by "most major network chip vendors." The following vendors support SONiC in the their application-specific integrated circuits, according to Microsoft: Barefoot Networks (Tofino), Broadcom (Trident and Tomahawk), Cavium (XPliant), Centec Networks (Goldengate), Mellanox Technologies (Spectrum), Marvell Technology Group (Prestera) and Nephos (Taurus).

Various 100-gigabyte switches with SONiC technology are getting demonstrated at the OCP U.S. Summit event. The following vendors have SONiC-supported switches, according to Microsoft: Arista Networks (7050 and 7060 Series), Centec Networks (E580 and E582 Series), Dell (S6000 ON, S6100-ON and Z9100-ON Series), Edge-core Networks (AS7512 Series, Wedge-100b), Facebook (Wedge-100), Ingrasys Technology (S9100 Series), Marvell Technology Group (RD-BC3-4825G6CG-A4 and RD-ARM-48XG6CG-A4 series) and Mellanox Technologies (SN2700 Series).

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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