Well, Facebook can’t be entirely evil…right?
Their Open Compute Project, started in April 2011 and still going strong with the release of Open Rack, is pursuing maximum efficiency. They have chosen to open source the entire design so that the industry can start to benefit from working together to solve the most fundamental challenges inherent in data centers. Basically, this boils down to turning electricity into cyber services with the least possible energy and hardware. Check out their specs here.
“Sharing software has existed for many, many years, but it hasn’t taken foothold in the hardware space or in the data center world…yet.” – Jonathan Heiliger, Facebook VP Technical Operations
“On the other side of the equation, we’ve started to see a convergence of voices among the consumers of this technology around where we think the industry would benefit from standardization and where we think the opportunities for innovation are.” – Frank Frankovsky, Facebook Open Compute Project President.
Here are some industry responses, collected by DatacenterDynamics:
“I think, overall, I like the idea of sharing their design data. I think there’s some good learnings there…but I think who can use it varies.” – John Kuzman, Intel Senior Data Center Architect
“Having a bigger set of eyes looking at their designs is only going to make the project better.” – Ian McClarty, Phoenix NAP President
“I’d like to congratulate Facebook for being open about their compute platform…They’re helping the industry.” – Al Edwards, Nokia, Americas Data Center Manager
“There are two things: cyber-things and physical-things…The management schemes were not released and it would be nice to know something about how their data center is managed.” - Sandeep Gupta, Arizona State University, Professor of Computer Science and Engineering
“If they open sourced that to the rest of the world, I think that would be a great benefit.” – Guy Tal, Limelight Networks, Director of Strategic Relations
The real core of open source hardware is, as Facebook puts it, hardware API‘s. The universal principle of an API is that it ensures compatibility across multiple vendors and a long periods of time. Interchangeable fasteners are a hardware API. The USB plug is a hardware API. Automobile wheel lugs are a hardware API. Since hardware is more expensive than software, it takes longer and costs more to establish standards, but those standards also produce more benefits when they are finally adopted.
Since Facebook’s Open Compute Project is redesigning all the hardware API’s in the data center from scratch, they can optimize the system of systems, ensuring on over-optimized sub-system doesn’t interfere with the overall performance of the data center. How much of their work gets adopted by the industry remains to be seen.