From the racks to the roof, the Open Compute Project “OCP” is trying to break the mold to improve and redesign everything we take for granted as “industry standard” in the data center world. In a continuing effort to use open source community thinking to effect changes to the server hardware, design of the racks and even the building itself, in much the same way Linux community of developers changed the paradigm in the software realm. On October 27th OCP held their second Summit in New York City. In fact, Red Hat was there and formally announced they were joining and would be contributing to the OCP.

The morning presentation was given a large room and was standing room only. The audience was given a two hour long series of presentations led by Frank Frankosky, Director of Technical Operations at Facebook and also chairman of OCP.  While OCP was started by Facebook, it has an interesting and diverse board of directors, all of whom gave a presentation:

Jason Waxman, General Manager, High Density Computing, Data Center Group, Intel

Mark Roenigk, Chief Operating Officer, Rackspace Hosting

Andy Bechtolshiem, Industry Guru

Don Duet, Managing Director, Goldman-Sachs

In particular, I found the inclusion of Don Duet, Managing Director, Goldman-Sachs especially interesting in light of the September announcement that OCP was going to be collaborating with the Open Data Center Alliance “ODCA”, a global group of major, and yet diverse, organizations such as BMW, Deutsche Bank, JPMorgan Chase, Lockheed Martin, Marriott International, Inc. and Disney Technology Solutions. Clearly,having someone from Goldman-Sachs on the OCP board gives a different aspect to a group whose unconventional non-standard designs seems totally out of step with the typically ultra conservative world of upper tier financial and enterprise data centers.

Beyond the morning high level presentations, the afternoon was broken into a series of different technical tracks for discussions and contributions by pre-screened attendees with the various technical specialists of the OCP team.   Some of the sessions had some interesting and ambitious goals:

Storage - Building for the 100 year standard.

Open Rack - Mechanical design and modular power distribution.

Datacenter Design - Building for different geographies.

 

In a direct follow-up to the Summit, the next day Future Facilties announced that they were joining the OCP and would be contributing some of their DCIM software.

In case you were wondering, to some members this is going beyond just the mere discussion stage. One of the members, Hyve Solutions is offering to sell the OCP specialized servers and “Triplett” racks, similar to those that Facebook used in their data center.  Their website even has prices posted. The 1.5U server (yes 1.5U, not a typo) with a single CPU, 8GB ram and a hard drive is approximately $2,300 each (depending on CPU type) and the matching “Triplett” rack, which can hold up to 72 servers, and includes the unique AC and DC power systems as well as Cisco Switch, is listed at $57,422.

Asus, which makes motherboards, a key component to unique OCP server is also a member. Also worthy of note was that Dell is a member and Jimmy Pike, Chief Architect, Data Center Solutions presented their vision and a potential Dell server and chassis OCP product offering.

The Open Compute Project was launched in April, loaded with design details fresh from Facebook’s new Prinvillle OR datacenter, which was built using non-standard sized servers, mounted in specialized racks, and into a building designed to use mostly outside air for cooling, instead of conventional CRACs. 

Beside the formal presentations and new member announcements, I found intriguing to see Mark Monroe, Executive Director of The Green Grid was in the audience. I had the opportunity to speak with him about his attendance at the summit, and he provided this insight.

"The Open Compute Project is a great forum for exchanging ideas about 'efficiency at scale.' The Green Grid continues to be the global authority on resource efficient computing at all sizes, and we look forward to working with OCP to transfer knowledge from the very large compute users to the rest of the industry."

 

The mere fact that The Green Grid foresees working with the OCP, just adds to OCP momentum.

The Bottom Line

Although born out of the Facebook project only six months ago, and still in relative infancy, the Open Compute Project seems to be maturing quickly and gaining significant members, as well as forming strategic alliances at a very rapid rate. 

Facebook is continuing to use and improving on their original Prineville Oregon design and is building another data center in North Carolina. In addition, last week they just announced that will build their first data center outside of the US in Lulea a city in northern Sweden. Facebook is certainly not the first to have custom servers and non-traditional cooling, Google and Yahoo, as well as other “hyperscale” organizations, have made headlines well before Facebook had its own data centers.

Nonetheless, it still remains to be seen if, and how many other data centers will actually adopt the “open” concept and the actual OCP open hardware “standards” that are under development.  Perhaps some will simply just watch the longer term operational results of Facebook’s new data centers, to learn what works and also what does not fare so well under real world conditions. While others may simply pick and choose from what the OCP develops that will best fit their own organizations computing requirements.