Facebook's Open Compute Project Gaining Momentum After First Year

The unprecedented effort to open-source data center hardware design is gaining interest from companies large and small for all the right reasons.

MENLO PARK, Calif. €” A little over a year after Facebook launched its Open Compute Project, organizers of the unusual open-source hardware and software initiative report that it is gaining traction among a large number of companies big and small.

Turns out most enterprises want to save money, power from the walls and staff time. The Open Compute Project (OCP), based on much of the Facebook data center architecture and server design schemes, aims to do precisely that. But to get any project off the ground, it takes old-fashioned selling and recruiting.

"Anybody who's worked in open source will tell you: The easiest part is opening-sourcing things; the hardest part is actually building a thriving community, where there are multiple people contributing to that project," Mike Schroepfer, Facebook's vice president of engineering, told a group of journalists in a whiteboard session on the Facebook campus earlier this week.

Recruiting Effort Is Paying Off

Apparently, the recruiting effort is starting to pay off. Companies are now knocking on Facebook's door, instead of vice versa.

Facebook launched the OCP April 7, 2011. It is an unprecedented attempt to open-source the specifications it employs for its hardware and data center to efficiently power a social network comprising 900 million-plus people. The OCP held its second summit event last month in San Antonio. More than 500 attendees came.

For the Open Compute Project, Facebook itself publishes specs and mechanical designs used to construct its motherboards, power supply, server chassis and server and battery cabinets. GigaOm has hard data points on the specs.

The company is also open-sourcing specs for its data center's electrical and mechanical construction, including technical specs and mechanical CAD files.

A lot has happened in the first year, Frank Frankovsky, Facebook engineer and founding board member of OCP, told the folks at the whiteboard session earlier this week.

Much Has Happened in the First Year

"It's amazing how much can happen in a year," Frankovsky said. "In April 2011, when we open-sourced a set of server and data center designs under the name 'Open Compute Project,' we weren't sure what to expect. It was our hope that we could inspire the industry to be a little more open, a little more innovative and a little more focused on energy efficiency.

"It seems to have worked, although there's still a lot more to do."

Chris Preimesberger

Chris Preimesberger

Chris Preimesberger is Editor of Features & Analysis at eWEEK, responsible in part for the publication's coverage areas. In his 10 years and more than 3,500 stories at eWEEK, he has distinguished...