Facebook Open Sources Its 'Big Sur' AI Servers
The company hopes to accelerate innovation around deep learning by contributing the GPU-based system designs to the OCP.Facebook officials have said that the giant social networking company has saved more than $2 billion in data center expenses by using open technologies through the Open Compute Project it founded in 2011. They also have said the effort has helped accelerate the innovation of infrastructure resources, such as servers and networking appliances. Facebook now wants to drive the benefits of open source into the highly competitive world of artificial intelligence (AI). Company officials on Dec. 10 announced that they are making the plans for Facebook's massive servers designed for AI freely available by contributing the designs for the "Big Sur" systems to the Open Compute Project (OCP). The company, through its Torch initiative, already has open-sourced some of its deep learning code. By doing the same with Big Sur—which Facebook reportedly has been working on for 18 months—anyone can take the server blueprints and reproduce the servers for their own use as they look to speed up their own AI software efforts. For Facebook, that could mean faster access to such critical applications as advanced facial and voice recognition, object recognition in photos and videos, and automated texting. It could also drive down the cost of such innovation. "Often the things we open-source become standards in the community and it makes it easier and cheaper for us to acquire the things later because we put them out there," Serkan Piantino, director of engineering of Facebook's AI group, said during a Dec. 10 conference call, according to Bloomberg.
A growing number of major tech players and smaller startups are driving the development of artificial intelligence and deep-learning technologies that will enable their products to learn, think and act more humanlike. They will be crucial to such ventures as self-driving cars, and vendors ranging from Google and IBM to Microsoft, Apple and Baidu are growing their investments in the space. In recent efforts, Apple in October bought AI startup Perceptio and Google had bought a stake in the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence.