The second Open Compute Project Summit was a resounding success, but that just means we as a community have a lot of work ahead of us to advance the goals and benefits of open hardware. Through a series of presentations by industry luminaries and technical workshops, hundreds of participants came together and discussed the Open Compute Project initiatives.
The Open Compute Project Foundation and its board were announced. Modeled after the Apache Software Foundation, the OCP Foundation will design and deliver tangible goods and source files to let people deploy OCP hardware in their environments. The five members of the OCP Foundation board are:
- Andreas ("Andy") Bechtolsheim, Founder of Arista Networks and former Chief Hardware Designer at Sun Microsystems
- Don Duet, Vice President of Information Technology at Goldman Sachs
- Frank Frankovsky, Director of Technical Operations at Facebook
- Mark Roenigk, COO at Rackspace
- Jason Waxman, General Manager of the Data Center Group at Intel
The board reflects a diversity of industries, from supplier to consumer. You might be asking yourself why Goldman Sachs sits on the board. Facebook's Frank Frankovsky says that financial services companies "are IT companies more than they actually know," running large-scale compute environments.
He also said Intel has "one of the richest portfolios of thought leadership of tech in the industry," and that it's very important for Intel to be part of the OCP, so others will follow their lead.
Rapid Innovation Requires Open Standards
It almost goes without saying that standards in computing are vitally important. The advent of open source software and standards ushered in an era of great advancements in innovation. Andy Bechtolsheim of Arista said the same needs to be done on the hardware side, because there is a lack of standards at the system level. In order for there to be innovation in the scale compute ecosystem, the "gratuitous differentiation" where one vendor's hardware is different than another's must be eliminated. Calling gratuitous differentiation "the enemy" and innovation "our friend," Bechtolsheim said there is a need to "create a mutual benefit for customers and vendors by creating a new market for open-standard system-level designs."
This view was echoed by Jimmy Pike, Senior Distinguished Engineer, Chief Architect and Technologist at Dell Data Center Solutions. "Standards can set you free," he said. Open hardware should have standard form and fit, physical interfaces, management interfaces, and technology elements. He mentioned Dell's Nucleon server, its entry level OCP platform.
Brian Stevens, CTO and Vice President, Worldwide Engineering at Red Hat, likens the mission of the OCP to that of Red Hat's, in that both are a "catalyst in communities of customers, contributors and partners building better technology the open source way." He noted that Red Hat certified the first two OCP systems for Red Hat Enterprise Linux, and that Red Hat certification brings hardware compatibility.
Success at Scale
Innovation in data center technologies has been flourishing in recent years, and the pace is only quickening. James Hamilton, Vice President and Distinguished Engineer for Amazon Web Services, said there has been more innovation in the past five years than in the previous 15. Innovations like evaporative cooling, full building ductless cooling, and using outside air -- all technologies used at Facebook's Prineville, OR, data center -- have brought down costs, increased reliability, and reduced the environmental footprint of data centers.
To give an idea about how much Amazon has had to scale in recent years, every day "Amazon Web Services adds enough capacity to support all of Amazon.com’s global infrastructure through the company's first 5 years."
The OCP will "democratize and bring together much more choice in the industry for people to get efficient platforms," Jason Waxman of Intel said, adding that Intel has a long history of supporting open standards, like PCI and wi-fi. The trend is the same. "If you present people with an open spec, everyone can innovate."
From Workshops to Working Groups
One of the primary results of the summit came from the five technical workshops that were held. The workshops covered data center design, hardware management, open rack, storage, and virtual I/O.
The output from each workshop is being turned into a charter and specification that we'll share with the community. We also set up complementary working groups along these same themes. Join the discussions by subscribing to any or all of the lists that you are passionate about:
- For general information: lists.opencompute.org/mailman/listinfo/opencompute-all
- For data center design: lists.opencompute.org/mailman/listinfo/opencompute-datacenterdesign
- For hardware management: lists.opencompute.org/mailman/listinfo/opencompute-hardwaremngt
- For open rack: lists.opencompute.org/mailman/listinfo/opencompute-openrack
- For virtual I/O: lists.opencompute.org/mailman/listinfo/opencompute-virtualio
We look forward to your involvement in the community. See you online!