Open Compute Test Lab Head Sees Big Future for Facility
The UTSA certification lab plays the role of quality assurance—the lab's seal of approval means the system has been rigorously tested and meets the high standards for such metrics as reliability and interoperability from the OCP, Kimball said. "It's really about peace of mind," he said. The interest in open hardware also illustrates the trend within the industry of customers looking for more customized data center solutions that address their particular needs, Kimball said. "The concept of 'one size fits all' is going out the window," he said. "People are starting to look at customized solutions as not just software optimized for hardware, but hardware optimized for software."However, to view the lab as simply a testing site is short-sighted, Rad said. The lab sits at a key intersection of vendors, end users, and UTSA faculty and staff, and will have a major influence on all those constituents, he said. The plan is to continue to build out the cloud infrastructure at the university, and then let the various stakeholders leverage the cloud for their needs, many of which overlap with each other. For example, tech vendors have a place to test their equipment, which in turn gives the students at the school high-level hands-on experience handling these systems. Meanwhile, end users can use the lab and its cloud infrastructure to run proof-of-concepts (the lab currently is working with three large financial services firms to run their tests) to see how these open systems will work in their environments and run their applications. Being able to use the UTSA cloud saves these businesses the time and expense of setting up their own test environments. And again, it's the UTSA students who do much of the work around the testing, Rad said. As the UTSA's work in cloud and big data grows, the expectation is that the university will become known as a "cloud school," attracting students and researchers who will bring even more ideas to the environment. Rad calls it a "pinwheel," where the lab's significance in the field continues to grow. But he also wants it to be more than just a test and certification facility. Rad sees it as a place for driving innovation in the areas of cloud computing and big data. In addition, open source is about collaborating with others, and the certification lab gives people a place to do that. "To build gravity [around an effort], you need a place for people to go," Rad said. "We are that place."
Rad and Daniel Smolenski, senior network analyst in the UTSA College of Sciences and manager of the OCP lab, said the hardware gets tested in various stages, from the system level through the rack and then in the school's big cloud data center. And it won't just be servers, they said. For example, the lab recently received a storage appliance from Quanta that was built according to Open Network Install Environment (ONIE) standards.