Adventures in reverse engineering Broadcom NIC firmware

For some time now, I’ve been reverse engineering the firmware of the Broadcom BCM5719 Ethernet NIC chip, so that open source firmware can be produced for it. […] The reverse engineering project, Project Ortega, began in December 2017 and involved reverse engineering proprietary firmware to determine what any open source replacement would need to do. Mainly this involved producing a reverse engineered C codebase from the disassembly of proprietary firmware, then producing a natural-language specification for others to reimplement; the actual reversed code itself is not published. In other words, this is a clean-room reverse engineering workflow. The reverse engineering side is now pretty much done and availability of open source firmware for the BCM5719 is waiting on the completion of a reimplementation effort (thanks to Evan Lojewski). This is a cleanroom implementation and doesn’t share any code with Project Ortega or the proprietary firmware, but is produced using the human-readable specifications delivered by Project Ortega. Once this is delivered, it will be possible to use Raptor’s POWER9 systems with purely 100% free, open source firmware. As far as I am aware, there is no other machine in the same performance class which can make such a claim. The rest of this article describes the entire journey of getting to this point, and briefly discusses the innards of the BCM5719.[…]

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