Open Hardware Movement Changing the Game for IT Vendors, Enterprises

By Jeffrey Burt  |  Posted 2015-06-30 Print this article Print
Open Hardware

King also noted that Dell was among the first to organize a business unit dedicated to working with hyperscale organizations when it launched its Data Center Solutions group eight years ago.

"The changes happening now were happening before Facebook jumped into the market with Open Compute," he told eWEEK. "The trend toward hyperscale data centers like Facebook and Google, Apple and others started well before Open Compute started as a concept."

Google, like Facebook, was building its own data center hardware to better meet its needs. However, unlike Facebook, Google engineers kept what they were doing under wraps. Facebook—after spending two years working on ways to scale its infrastructure while making it more economical and efficient—brought the open hardware push to the forefront when it launched the OCP in 2011, focusing first on servers and then rapidly expanding to networking, storage and other areas of the data center.

In the four years since, the Open Compute Project has grown to include a broad array of top-tier tech vendors, such as Intel, Dell, HP, Cisco Systems, Microsoft and Apple. It has brought together 200 companies in all including large enterprise customers, such as the top financial services firms that have signed on.

Facebook officials also have said the social networking company is proof that the concept can work, since the social media company has saved more than $2 billion in infrastructure costs over the past several years by leveraging open hardware designs.

As further proof of the momentum behind OCP, officials pointed out that at the second Open Compute Summit, attendance nearly hit 3,000.

"We have passed the tipping point where OCP gear is no longer an experiment," Frank Frankovsky, a former Dell executive who came to Facebook to help with the infrastructure development and became chairman and president of the OCP Foundation, wrote in a post on the organization's blog in March.

"Major companies and vendors have pivoted from proprietary interests and are working together to bring open datacenter technologies to market. We saw the open source model work for software, and now we know it can be done with hardware," Frankovsky wrote.

The group got a significant boost in March when HP announced a new family of basic, low-cost systems designed to give Web-scale operations like those run by Google, Facebook and Amazon an alternative to the vendor's proprietary line of ProLiant systems. The Cloudline systems are being built in partnership with contract manufacturer Foxconn and embrace standards developed within the OCP.

The Cloudline servers are part of a larger effort by HP to work with its growing network of partners to offer more open data center resources. A month before HP introduced the Cloudline, company officials announced a partnership with Accton Technology to build new HP-branded software-independent switches that will run Cumulus Networks' Linux networking OS and target hyperscale environments and service providers.

"It's a noticeably different approach [to developing] next-generation systems," John Gromala, senior director of hyperscale product management at HP, told eWEEK.

Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst with Moor Insights and Strategy, said he was impressed with the Cloudline effort.

"Keep your eye on this space," Moorhead told eWEEK. "I think this approach is a good one for HP."


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