Western Digital joins with lowRISC and Google to enhance security transparency from data center to the edge

Western Digital has joined on Tuesday with lowRISC, Google and a coalition of partners in support of OpenTitan, the first open-source project building transparent, high-quality reference design and integration guidelines for silicon root of trust (RoT) chips that can be used in data storage, compute, and other hardware platforms. 

Leveraging its position in data infrastructure and open-source technologies, Western Digital is working with ecosystem partners to optimize the OpenTitan framework to meet diverse security demands of data-centric storage use cases from the core to the edge, including machine-learning applications, smartphones and connected Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

The OpenTitan project was established with the belief that the ability to understand, inspect and verify a device from the chip to the application is critical in data security. As it’s open, adopters of the new OpenTitan framework can now review, audit and contribute to OpenTitan’s register-transfer level (RTL) reference design, firmware and integration guidelines. This transparency will help to create more secure RoT solutions and enable continued innovation.

A RoT is a function or element in a computing module that is always trusted by the computer’s operating system. It serves as the foundational trusted element in a linked chain, in which each element is secured by a prior trusted element. In this way, a RoT can ensure the overall security for multiple constituent elements in a larger complex system. 

Key benefits of the OpenTitan RoT include transparency, high quality and flexibility. Adopters can inspect and contribute to OpenTitan’s design, firmware, and documentation, helping to build more transparent, trustworthy hardware RoT chips that benefit everyone.

OpenTitan’s goal is to build and maintain a high-quality and logically secure RTL design, firmware, and documentation. The project is staffed by expert engineers focused on rigorous design validation and technical documentation, all based on key learnings from designing Google’s Titan chips. Adopters can increase their total addressable market and reduce costs by using a single platform-agnostic hardware RoT design that can be integrated in data center servers, peripherals, and any other hardware platforms.

As part of the company’s ongoing participation in the OpenTitan project, Western Digital is collaborating with lowRISC, Google and others to develop the OpenTitan RoT, including contributing to its initial overall design, hardware block implementation and firmware. 

Western Digital’s support of the project further extends the company’s leadership in advancing open-source innovation, including significant investments in the open-source software and hardware ecosystem, broad participation in open industry standard security groups, and leadership in open-source organizations.

“Customers are asked to put faith in proprietary hardware RoT chips for their mission-critical systems without the ability to fully understand, inspect and, therefore, trust them,” said Dominic Rizzo, OpenTitan Lead, Google Cloud. “By creating OpenTitan with technology leaders like Western Digital and the broader hardware and academic community, we can leverage the experience and security principles used to create Google’s own Titan chips to make hardware RoT designs more transparent, inspectable, and accessible to the rest of the industry. Security should never be built on opacity.”

OpenTitan is managed by lowRISC, an independent not-for-profit engineering organization that uses collaborative engineering to develop and maintain open-source silicon designs and tools.

“At lowRISC, our mission is to establish a vibrant ecosystem around open silicon designs and to help lower the barrier to producing custom chips,” said Gavin Ferris, lowRISC CIC board member. “The collaboration between lowRISC, Google, Western Digital and the OpenTitan ecosystem of like-minded organizations focused on the goal of improving transparency around chips helps increase trust in the overall security of the infrastructure on which software runs. With OpenTitan, enterprise organizations and consumers alike will benefit from services built on a more secure infrastructure that is anchored in transparently implemented OpenTitan chips.”

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