How Open-Source Firmware Enables New Opportunities in Systems Research

Main Room,

Despite being a vital component of every computing stack, system firmware has been mostly obscure and inaccessible to academic researchers for several decades. With the advent of open-source firmware implementations for major platforms in the consumer and datacenter spaces, new possibilities for researchers arise. Crucially, most works so far focused on security aspects, as vulnerabilities and supply chain attacks at the firmware level can have devastating implications for users and businesses alike. In this talk, I want to shed light on how other areas of systems research can benefit from open-source firmware by sharing some of the the work-in-progress efforts being done at our operating systems research lab at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). I will begin with insights and experiences from our own homegrown port of coreboot to an off-the-shelf mainboard based on Intel's current-gen server platform. Then, I will present how we leverage this implementation to explore and implement novel ideas around system suspend and Compute Express Link (CXL) that would be impossible to build without firmware modifications.