HP Launches Open-Design Servers for the Cloud

The new Cloudline systems, developed with Foxconn, target Web-scale companies while pushing back at the encroachment by ODMs into the data center.

HP cloud servers

Hewlett-Packard last year announced a partnership with contract manufacturer Foxconn to build open, low-cost servers for cloud environments that would enable the tech giant to push back at the encroachment of white-box makers in the data center.

HP on March 10 unveiled the first fruits of the Foxconn partnership, announcing a new family of basic, low-cost servers under the Cloudline name. The new servers offer alternatives to the company's proprietary line of ProLiant systems and embrace standards developed within the Open Compute Project (OCP), an effort started in 2011 by Facebook to develop ways to create more power-efficient, cost-effective data center hardware.

HP's announcement came on the first day of the OCP Summit in San Jose, Calif.

The Cloudline servers are designed for cloud and Web-scale environments run by the likes of Google, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft, which are looking for open, standards-based systems that are high-performing, small and highly energy-efficient. However, as more workloads move into the cloud, adoption of such systems will move beyond larger organizations and service providers, according to John Gromala, senior director of hyperscale product management at HP.

"They're the tip of the spear," Gromala told eWEEK, adding that he expects the number and size of businesses interested in the systems "to broaden over time."

The Cloudline systems leverage the OCP's Open Rack and Open Cloud Server specifications, enabling common industry interfaces for hardware and firmware and supporting open management tools. They also are optimized for HP's Helion OpenStack, the company's distribution of the open-source cloud orchestration platform.

HP has been aggressive in embracing open system designs in the data center to complement its more proprietary hardware portfolios, an acknowledgement of the growing demand for more open systems coming from companies like Google and Facebook, whose influence is growing due to the large number of systems they put into their massive data centers. At the same time, original design manufacturers (ODMs) and white-box makers from Asia are growing their businesses selling directly to such vendors, offering low-cost and efficient open systems. IDC analysts found that ODM server revenue grew last year by 40.5 percent, to more than $3.9 billion.

"Public cloud service providers continue their hyperscale deployment march as both large and midsize service providers expand their data center footprints to meet growing cloud services demand, led by cloud hosting services," Kuba Stolarski, research manager for enterprise servers at IDC, said in a statement when the numbers were announced earlier this month. "As we look forward over the next few years, server demand will continue to see aggressive hyperscale growth, as well as interrelated greenfield opportunities attached to the Internet of things (IoT) solutions. As IoT grows, generating increasing amounts of data, network traffic and demand for real-time analytics, new server designs and new methods of deploying compute capability will continue the transformation of the server market."