Adding Up the Achievements of the Facebook Open Compute Project in the Cloud Era

Facebook’s Open Compute Project (OCP) was launched in 2011 with the intent of improving data center efficiency through the development and open distribution of custom data center designs. These designs are developed by The Open Compute Project Foundation, a global community of engineers.

Among the OCP’s aims are improved scalability, the reduction of material waste by modularizing standard data center designs, and cutting down energy consumption through the development of more efficient power supply systems.  These are the same objectives that Virtual Internet’s cloud engineers strive for in our cloud data centers that offer private, public and hybrid cloud configurations.

In tracking the OCP we note they have produced a number of technical achievements; here are four of the most prominent.

1: A Unified Motherboard Specification

The design of motherboards has historically been complicated by the need to accommodate two socket types: one for Intel processors and one for the rival AMD processor. The new specification advanced by the OCP would allow either processor to be used with a single motherboard design. Intel and AMD have collaborated with Calxeda and AppliedMicro to deliver preliminary hardware for the new specification.

2: Flash-Based Servers

As well as stripping down the hardware of its servers so as to reduce costs and also cut down material waste, the OCP has developed a database server that uses only solid-state flash memory. By switching to flash, the new database servers have been made faster and require less power. Known as “Dragonstone” the servers were developed specifically for Facebook; by making the technology available through the OCP, the company has ensured that other organizations can build similar servers.

3: Modularization

Most server designs currently in use are non-modular; that is, if one component malfunctions, it is often necessary to replace the entire server. This creates a significant amount of waste, as some components (such as the memory) need to be replaced less frequently than others (such as the processor). The OCP has delivered a more modular design, such that individual parts can be replaced more easily. For example, if a processor fails, the processor alone can be replaced rather than the entire server unit.

4: The OCP Power Supply

To provide standardized power for high-efficiency IT projects, the OCP has delivered a self-cooled 12V DC power supply. The OCP 700W-SH AC/DC power converter is a closed frame power supply that’s optimized for very high efficiency. The OCP power supply is configured for compatibility with other elements, such as the OCP’s battery backup cabinet.

The OCP has so far been very successful in encouraging IT companies from different sectors – and rivals from within the same sector – to collaborate effectively on new hardware designs. It will doubtless be interesting to see what future hardware developments the project delivers.

Further Reading:

[1] Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/notes/facebook-engineering/building-efficient-data-centers-with-the-open-compute-project/10150144039563920

[2 ] Data Center Knowledge: http://www.datacenterknowledge.com/archives/2011/04/14/will-open-compute-alter-the-data-center-market/

[3] Wired: http://www.wired.com/wiredenterprise/2013/01/facebook-server-pieces/

[4] Open Compute: http://www.opencompute.org/projects/power-supply/

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