Slideshow: Facebook Drives Open Hardware

SAN JOSE, Calif. - Move over, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, and Dell. Open-source hardware is here, ready for datacenters large and small. That was the message from the fifth annual gathering of the Facebook-led Open Compute Project (OCP).

Microsoft contributed to the growing OCP pot the details of its current datacenter server design. Its engineers joined the project's working groups, adding the heft of an operator that, like Facebook, is already running more than a million servers in its global datacenters, increasingly based on freely available hardware designs.

The event sported an unusually active show floor where Microsoft showed its new server designs, hoping others will make and use them. Like Facebook, the datacenter giant now believes it can drive to lower-cost services than its rivals by making its designs open. Facebook saved an estimated $1.2 billion in the last three years using the approach, Microsoft claims.

'Open-source is not just for the big guys,' said Frank Frankovsky, vice president of hardware design and supply chain operations at Facebook and president of the OCP. He noted the growing ranks of suppliers selling to all comers the OCP-based systems needed to run a datacenter 'without the proprietary BS that goes with it.'

The so-called 'converged infrastructure' of brand-name servers, switches, and storage comes with 'vendor lock-in' that is no longer acceptable, Frankovsky said. 'The industry is fundamentally being changed... Those who embrace open-source will be far more successful than those who resist it.'

Big datacenters such as Facebook's and Microsoft's still represent a minority of the datacenter market, but an expanding one as more companies turn to public cloud services. Meanwhile the largest datacenter operators -- Amazon and Google -- still prefer to go it alone, aiming to get an edge with proprietary in-house designs for datacenter gear.

The OCP event attracted 3,300 registrants. IBM and Panasonic were among a handful of companies that more quietly joined the Open Compute Project, which now has more than 150 members and an expanding licensing and certification process.

The rise of ARM server SoCs continued to be a hot topic at the event. Advanced Micro Design tipped details of 'Seattle,' its first 64-bit ARM server SoC, sampling within weeks. Applied Micro sketched out plans for competing 28 and 16 nm SoCs.

The following pages provide a virtual walk-through of the summit.

Next page: Microsoft opens server


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