Roundup: Is Open Compute A Game-Changer?

Will the new Open Compute Project be disruptive to the way the data center industry operates, and to the vendor ecosystem that supports it? Here's a roundup of notable commentary and analysis from around the Web.

Rich Miller

April 8, 2011

4 Min Read
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Some of the "triplet" racks featured by the Open Compute Project.

Yesterday Facebook joind with industry partners in rolling out the Open Compute Project, a new effort to create open industry standards for data center hardware and design based on Facebook's work at its new Oregon data center. On one level, the initiative represents a change in thinking about data center design, which has traditionally been closely held by innovators.

Will this effort be disruptive to the way the data center industry operates, and to the vendor ecosystem that supports it? Those were front-of-mind questions for data center industry watchers, analysts and media yesterday. Here's a roundup of notable commentary and analysis from around the Web:

  • Perspectives (James Hamilton) - In the past, I’ve seen some super interesting but top secret facilities and I’ve seen some public but not particularly advanced data centers. To my knowledge, this is the first time an industry leading design has been documented in detail and released publicly. ... It really is an exciting time in our industry.

  • O'Reilly Radar (Jesse Robbins) - This is a gigantic step for open source hardware, for the evolution of the web and cloud computing, and for infrastructure and operations in general. This is the beginning of a shift that began with open source software, from vendors and consumers to a participatory and collaborative model.

  • Data Center Pulse (Mark Thiele) - The Facebook facility is very much like the NASA space program, there's lots of great tech created, but it takes a while before Tang is in everyone's fridge. ... The Facebook design won't apply to everyone, just like it probably doesn't apply for some of Facebook's own IT application environments. The variety of hardware and legacy application and physical architectures in most large IT shops mean that it's a non starter to consider building something that is one size fits all.

  • ZDNet (Dan Kusnetzky) - While it appears that Facebook likes and uses its data center and system designs, it is not at all clear that the same designs will work everywhere, for every purpose, for everyone. ... While I found Facebook’s reference designs an interesting attempt to push the state of the art forward. I’m not convinced that their reference designs will meet all of the requirements that today’s systems must meet to be commercially viable.

  • Forrester Blogs (Richard Fichera) - Facebook claims it (seeks) to encourage the development of new web companies by making it easier for them to build world-class infrastructure. Even if their true motivations are also weighted by a less altruistic goal of further lowering their costs by creating a community of multiple competing suppliers, Facebook deserves credit for sharing their IP with a wider and in some cases potentially competitive world. In an initial token of its appeal, Facebook's program has attracted the attention of at least HP, which announced that they have developed an HP-built auto-ranging, highly efficient 277-volt power supply that apparently conforms to Facebook's power specifications.

  • Marc Hamilton' on HPC - Some of the Open Compute server design concepts, such as highly efficient power supplies, translate directly into and in fact are already used by purpose built HPC servers like the HP ProLiant SL390 G7. . While I’m sure the Open Compute servers are fine for web workload’s required by the likes of Facebook, they don’t include more advanced features like integrated GPU options or QDR IB InfiniBand that the SL390 G7 offers and more and more HPC customers require. Properly programmed, GPUs can provide not 20 or 40% energy efficiency gains but 200 or 400% or more.

  • Inside Facebook - If other companies agree to apply the Open Compute Project’s innovations, the aggregate benefit to the environment should quiet critics like Greenpeace. Even if it doesn’t gain traction with third-parties, the efficiency improvements should help Facebook’s site to continue to run swiftly into the future.

  • Larry Dignan, ZDNet - The big question is what tech vendors—all pitching their own designs—will make of Facebook’s effort. ... While the fallout remains to be seen, the fact Facebook is detailing all of its specifications for servers and its data center—including the CAD drawings—is going to be disruptive.

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