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Microsoft open-sources its six-year-old Sora software project

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July 22, 2015

Microsoft said earlier today it has decided to open-source its 6-year-old Sora software radio initiative.

As the company's Jane Ma explained at Technet, Sora has been designed to replicate the behavior of specialised ASICs on a personal computer.

Its main focus is on the PHY and MAC layers. ASIC design is very expensive to engineer and quite inflexible, so software platforms are attractive to those trying to develop, debug and update code for these specialized processes.

Microsoft said that its Sora project was fully programmable and able to implement wireless technologies like Wi-Fi, BlueTooth, LTE, and MIMO.

Sora is actually written to run on commodity multi-core PCs under Windows 8, and implements the company's BRICK baseband programming library for DSP application development.

“A multi-core personal computer, plugged in to a PCIe radio control board, connecting to a third-party radio front-end with antenna, becomes a powerful software radio platform.

The PC interface board transfers the raw wireless (I/Q) signals between the RF front-end and the PC memory through fast DMA.

All signals are then processed in the software running in the PC,” Ma explained. Microsoft's Sora initiative places radio MAC/PHY processing on commodity hardware.

In that manner, the PC can keep up with the real-time demands of handling low-level radio processing, Microsoft said that Sora uses a low-cost radio control board on the PCIe bus, to act as a sort of a bridge between the software and third-party air interface cards.

Overall, this makes use of multi-core processor features like SIMD (single instruction, multiple data) and caching, and it supports parallel processing as well.

Sora has been designed to distribute processing pipelines to multiple cores efficiently.

“Finally, Sora provides a new kernel service-- it's called 'core dedication' and it allocates processor cores exclusively for real-time SDR tasks”, Microsoft said.

All Sora baseband development work has been written in C, Microsoft's project page says. The company added that its own research shows Sora can cope with running 300 MHz Wi-Fi with 40 MHz channels, 64 QAM modulation, and 4x4 MIMO.

“Spectrum-wise, Sora supports a wide range of radio front-end options, from standard Wi-Fi (ISM bands) to TV Whitespace (TVWS), in both single antenna settings and in 4x4 MIMO settings (8x8 is also possible)”, the project description added.

Source: Microsoft.

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