Facebook Open Compute Offers No Competitive Advantage vs. Google

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2011-10-31 Print this article Print

So I've been reading the handful of articles that covered Facebook's Open Compute launch in depth and I have to disagree with one of the main story angles. FB Open Compute.png

Naturally, when one covers a news item regarding Facebook it makes sense to look at it from a competitive standpoint. As in, how does a new feature initiative position the company for strategic growth versus its rivals?

Trying to position Open Compute as a blow to Google is like trying to squeeze blood from a stone. It might work is something like Lord of the Rings, but not in the real world.

For the uninitiated, Open Compute is the social network power's bid to open-source technology it uses in its data centers.

Facebook Oct. 27 published specs and mechanical designs used to construct its data centers, as well as the motherboards, power supply, server chassis, and server and battery cabinets and other technologies.

Partners ASUS, Dell Computer and others will build machines based on the open-sourced specs. Facebook and its Open Compute friends also work to make software work better on servers to improve data center efficiency, which may in turn lower energy costs. Check out some of their work here.

It's unprecedented in an industry where Internet giants such as Google have set precedents for secrecy. Google employs hundreds of thousands -- perhaps over 1 million -- low-cost, commodity computer servers in data centers all over the world.

The company jealously hordes secrets to its server construction, which the company boasts is extremely energy-efficient.

In comes Facebook, promising the inverse. While Google guards intel on proprietary servers and technology and closely guarded entrances and exits, Facebook publishes specs of server chassis and racks online.

New York Times writer Quentin Hardy broached the theme in an excellent piece last Friday:

By creating Open Compute, Facebook most likely hopes to neutralize some of Google's advantage in data-center design, by putting Google in competition with brains from around the world working on a common standard.

Let's be honest, generally when people see open versus closed, they like to think the open trumps closed, even though Windows kills Linux and Apple's iPhone and iPads are the world's top-selling smartphones and tablets.

Except in this case, Google is already the overwhelming leader in search, the product for which Google specifically designed its high-efficient, massively parallel data centers. No amount of open sourcing of hardware specs and optimization is going to help Facebook or anyone else beat Google there.

Not any more than Google's classified infrastructure schemas will help Google+ overtake Facebook's universal social network. Not going to happen.

So excuse me for not placing a premium on the notion of Open Compute affording Facebook and others competitive advantages or landing strategic body blows versus Google.

Again, not going to happen.

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