Enabling Innovation Where It Matters

It's amazing how much can happen in a year. Last April, when we open sourced a set of server and data center designs under the name "Open Compute Project," we weren't sure what to expect. It was our hope that we could inspire the industry to be a little more open, a little more innovative, and a little more focused on energy efficiency.

Today, as more than 500 people converge on San Antonio for the third OCP Summit, I think we can safely say that we've already achieved much more than that. The momentum that has gathered behind the project — especially in the last six months — has been nothing short of amazing.

Here are some of the major developments we've seen, just in the six months since our last summit:

    • Dozens of new companies have joined as official members of the project, including HP, AMD, Fidelity, Quanta, Tencent, Salesforce.com, VMware, Canonical, DDN, Vantage, ZT Systems, Avnet, Alibaba, Supermicro, and Cloudscaling. HP, Quanta, and Tencent have taken the additional step of joining the OCP Incubation Committee, which reviews proposed projects to determine whether they should receive official OCP support.


    • Exciting new projects have been proposed to the Incubation Committee, including a Facebook design for a vanity-free storage server (code-named "Knox") and highly efficient motherboard designs aimed at the specific needs of financial services companies from AMD and Intel (code-named "Roadrunner" and "Decathlete," respectively).


    • We've begun mapping out a convergence between Open Rack, the OCP's specification for an open-standard server rack design, and Project Scorpio, a similar spec under development by Tencent and Baidu. We expect to merge the two specs in 2013.


    • HP and Dell have announced new, clean-sheet server and storage designs (code-named "Project Coyote" and "Zeus," respectively) that will be compatible with OCP's Open Rack specification.


    • VMware has announced that it will certify its vSphere virtualization platform to run on OCP gear, and DDN has announced that it will do the same with its WOS storage system. Canonical has also announced that they will offer “zero day” certification on OCP servers, meaning that they will work with the OCP to certify new designs before those designs are released.


    • We’ve launched an official OCP Solutions Provider program to help enable new opportunities for companies to sell and consume technology based on Open Compute Project designs. Companies currently pursuing Solutions Provider status include Hyve, ZT Systems, and Avnet, as well as new business units from Quanta and Wistron (called QCT and Wiwynn, respectively) that have been launched to sell directly to consumers.

This is tremendous progress for such a short period of time. But even more gratifying is the way the Open Compute Project is inspiring both consumers and suppliers to think differently about this industry. In recent months, we’ve seen a variety of new choices emerge for consumers of scale computing technology, with the rise of new solutions providers like Hyve, ZT Systems, Avnet, and Quanta's new OCT business unit. These new options will enable consumers of all kinds to consume open, efficient hardware in the ways that suit them best.

On the other side of the equation, we’ve started to see a convergence of voices among the consumers of this technology around where we think the industry would benefit from standardization and where we think the opportunities for innovation are. Open Rack and Project Scorpio are perfect examples of these consumer voices coming together and communicating their needs more clearly – and the new Open Rack designs debuting today from HP and Dell are perfect examples of the supplier community’s response to that emerging clarity.

Perhaps most importantly, though, is the industry’s decreasing focus on what OCP founding board member Andy Bechtolsheim calls "gratuitous differentiation" and its increasing focus on driving innovation where it matters. This is the work we have ahead of us in the coming months, as we pursue even greater advances and efficiencies in scale computing technology. It is no small task that we’ve set for ourselves – but as the last year has proven, we can accomplish anything if we work together in the open.

Frank is founding board member of the Open Compute Project.