Leendert van Doorn, Distinguished Engineer from Gen-Z Consortium™ member company Microsoft recently joined us for a talk about Microsoft’s involvement in the Consortium as well as a look at what’s on the horizon.
Why did Microsoft decide to join the Gen-Z Consortium?
Largely it’s because we were hoping to see more unification take place. With so much conflicting activity in the marketplace at the time, nobody was getting any market share and development was a bit stalled. We wanted to see convergence from the technology leaders because we have a very clear need for new and useful kinds of buses within the rack. With that in mind, we joined Gen-Z, CCIX and CXL™ consortia.
What are Microsoft’s goals in working with Gen-Z technology and the Consortium?
We see Gen-Z as a rack-scale interconnect. CXL covers the local element, but we need scaling beyond a single, local unit. Out of all the solutions we’ve seen, Gen-Z is best positioned to provide the remote interconnect. We are very keen to see these two standards work well together and further develop Gen-Z for rack scale and possibly row scale interconnect.
Can you describe a “Day in the Life” of Microsoft working with Gen-Z technology?
We are currently in the exploration stage ‒ examining the natural progression from locally based interconnects to remote and defining what that means for Microsoft. We are very keenly interested in the testing platforms. One thing we are focused on is testing and allowing experimentation around bridging. We are also in the process of integrating into specific workgroups relative to Gen-Z bridging activities.
Does Microsoft see open standard contributions ‒ such as the work being done by the Gen-Z Consortium ‒ as important for the computing industry?
Absolutely. Open standards are core to everything Microsoft does. Fundamentally, if you look at our data centers, we are so big and growing so fast it is essential that we multi-source everything. We cannot lock ourselves into a single supplier because if we do, we can’t grow. And when you are dealing with multiple suppliers, they have to be able to interoperate. The only way to do that is through open standards. Basically, we wouldn’t be able to operate the cloud without open standards.
What do you see as Gen-Z’s impact within the industry?
Microsoft has some interesting scale problems. We have been building up to a massive scale running millions of computers worldwide and yet we are still deploying individual systems stacked in racks. This infrastructure is very expensive, so we are always exploring ways to improve efficiency and reduce cost by sharing resources. There are so many underutilized and stranded resources ‒ like memory, storage, accelerators in a rack ‒ and if a node doesn’t use, for example, 50% of its available memory, then it is just sitting there. It cannot be reused by other nodes. That’s wasteful; especially since memory is one of the most expensive resources in the data center. By sharing these stranded resources over an interconnect we can use them on other nodes, thereby improving the overall utilization. Gen-Z is the best candidate out there for extending that across a rack, and perhaps even a row, and tying it all together. People go to the cloud because a shared resource is more efficient than an individual stranded resource. The same can apply to a rack: shared resources are more efficient.
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