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Open Compute Project Hits Critical Mass

Mitch Wagner
3/23/2015
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The Facebook-led Open Compute Project is growing into a potential force to shape data centers and the networking industry.

The OCP's mission is developing open source designs for networking, servers, storage, hardware management, power supply, chassis and more. The OCP has been an interesting sideshow since its founding almost exactly four years ago, based on work Facebook did developing its Prineville, Ore., data center. For that facility, Facebook built its own custom-designed servers, power supplies, server racks and battery backup systems. Facebook's goal was to increase energy efficiency and reduce cost.

Facebook launched OCP and brought other companies in as members to make its engineering work public. Facebook could have kept that work proprietary and enjoyed the benefits alone, but the company saw more to gain from collaborating externally and freely, said Frank Frankovsky, OCP Foundation president and chairman, kicking off the OCP Summit 2015 this month. Frankovsky left a position as Facebook's VP hardware design and supply chain optimization last year. (He brought his majestic beard with him -- see OCP Summit 2015 in Pics: 'His Beard Is So Majestic'.)

The OCP's technology is designed to serve a diverse membership, with some accustomed to buying packaged solutions from vendors that provide a complete portfolio of products and support, and others, such as Facebook, being comfortable with a DIY approach and dealing directly with ODMs (original design manufacturers), Frankovsky said. The same technology needs to be available from multiple sources, so users can change vendors without having to replace their physical infrastructure.

That is the vision. What became apparent at the recent OCP Summit is that the vision is now becoming reality, in the form of support from hardware vendors putting open source products into customer hands.

Frankovsky laid out the news in a blog post during the conference. "We have passed the tipping point where OCP gear is no longer an experiment," he said. Members now include HP Inc. (NYSE: HPQ), Dell Technologies (Nasdaq: DELL), Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) and Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT).

Frankovsky outlined a few announcements:

  • Facebook announced the Yosemite system-on-a-chip compute server designed to provide performance-per-watt superior to traditional data center servers for heavily parallelized workloads. The company also proposed contributing to OCP the specifications of its top-of-rack Wedge network switch, as well as announcing OpenBMC low-level board management software for BMC chips. And Facebook opened its central library of FBOSS software that runs Wedge. (See Facebook Releases Data Center Tech.)

  • Intel and Facebook collaborated on Yosemite, which uses the Mono Lake server card running the new Intel Xeon D-1500 processor.

  • Accton Technology Corp. 's Edge-Core subsidiary announced that it is selling the Wedge-16X top-of-rack switch based on the Facebook design, and will open source two new data center switch designs -- the first open design of a 100Gbit/s Ethernet switch, and a cost-optimized 40Gbit/s Ethernet switch.

  • HP has expanded its open infrastructure strategy beyond cloud and network switches by introducing Cloudline, a new line of servers designed for service providers running hyperscale IT architectures. The servers, produced in partnership with Foxconn, are designed to provide basic, low-cost and customizable compute platforms, optimized for HP Helion OpenStack for cloud applications.

  • Mellanox Technologies Ltd. (Nasdaq: MLNX) contributed OpenOptics MSA specifications to the Open Compute Project, to allow data to be streamed at terabits per second over a single fiber. (See this press release.)

  • Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM) announced availability of the Broadcom Open Network Switch Library (OpenNSL), a software platform for OEMs, ISVs (independent software vendors) and network operators. OpenNSL provides APIs to enable development of new applications on Broadcom StrataXGS switches.

  • Cumulus Networks contributed the ACPI Platform Description as a new industry standard for networking hardware and operating system integration, extending the ACPI (Advanced Configuration and Power Interface) from servers and PCs to bare metal switches.

  • Big Switch Networks announced that OCP accepted Open Network Linux, which runs underneath Big Switch's Switch Light OS, as a reference network operating system.


    Want to know more about data center infrastructure? This will be just one of the many topics covered at Light Reading's second Big Telecom Event on June 9-10 in Chicago. Get yourself registered today or get left behind!


    Simultaneous with the opening day of the OPC Summit, startup Vapor came out of stealth mode to launch technology designed to help with the creation of data centers at the edge of the network -- colocation points, central offices, strip malls, oil rigs and more. (See Vapor Pushes Data Centers to the Edge.)

    "You can start looking at your infrastructure a little bit more like cattle and a little bit less like pets," Cole Crawford, Vapor CEO and co-founder of OpenStack and the Open Compute Project, said during a presentation at the OCP Summit.

    An interesting perspective but perhaps discombobulating for those who keep cows as pets...

    — Mitch Wagner, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profileFollow me on Facebook, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading. Got a tip about SDN or NFV? Send it to wagner@lightreading.com.

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    Mitch Wagner
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    Mitch Wagner,
    User Rank: Lightning
    3/23/2015 | 10:53:14 AM
    Cows as pets?
    Think of the litterbox!
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