Open Data Centers Gain Friends

October 30, 2011

I’ve posted here a couple of time previously about Facebook’s effort to apply open-source principles to data center design, and its Open Compute Project.   Facebook contributed a large body of design information to the project, based on a new, highly-efficient data center the company recently completed in Prineville, Oregon.  That data center is one of the most efficient in the world, in terms of power consumption; it uses 38% less electricity than other Facebook data centers.

According to an article at Ars Technica, Facebook has just announced the creation of a foundation to support the project’s work.  In order to create a data center like the one at Prineville,  Facebook had to design a great deal of the equipment used: servers, power supplies, battery backup systems,and a power distribution system.  Intel, AMD, Dell, and Asus also contributed intellectual property to the project.  And Facebook’s situation is hardly unique.

Google, Amazon, and others all have had to follow a similar path, according to Arista Network chief development officer and Sun cofounder Andy Bechtolsheim, who spoke at today’s event in New York. “Literally all the large-scale data centers in the world are built on off-the-shelf mother boards,” he said. “Because there was no standards, everyone had to do their own thing.”

The new Open Compute Project Foundation is a non-profit organization along the lines of the Apache Foundation, which sponsors the development of the very successful, and widely-used, Apache Web server.   Members of the foundation’s  board include Mr. Bechtolsheim, Goldman Sachs managing director Don Duet, Frankovsky, Rackspace chief operating officer Mark Roenigk, and Intel data center group general manager Jason Waxman.    The new foundation also has a relationship with the Open Data Center Alliance, a consortium of IT customers and some universities.

The focus of the Open Compute project, so far, has been on designs for very large, scalable data centers like those run by Facebook, Amazon, or Google.  This sector certainly has some very special and specific needs.  But the project aims to broaden its scope in time.

There are signs that the Open Compute designs could become more practical for a broader array of data center customers in the future. One of the new participants in the project is Digital Realty Trust, the world’s largest operator of third-party data center space.

The Data Center Knowledge site also has an article on the project.

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