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Microsoft Lights a Fire Under Open Source Hardware Dev

Mitch Wagner

Microsoft has announced Project Olympus, an open source hyperscale cloud hardware design and a new model for speeding up development of open source hardware.

"Open source hardware development is currently not as agile and iterative as open source software," Kushagra Vaid, general manager at Azure Hardware Infrastructure, said in a blog post Monday. Open hardware designs are contributed to open source when they are "production-ready," Vaid says. "At that stage, the design is essentially finalized -- almost 100% complete -- and this late contribution delays the development of derivative designs, limits interactive community engagement and adoption, and slows down overall delivery."

With the new paradigm, Microsoft is contributing next-generation cloud hardware designs when they're about 50% complete, much earlier than previous OCP projects.

"By sharing designs that are actively in development, Project Olympus will allow the community to contribute to the ecosystem by downloading, modifying, and forking the hardware design just like open source software," Vaid notes.

More than 90% of the servers Microsoft currently purchases are based on Open Compute Project contributed specifications.

Project Olympus comprises a new universal motherboard, high-availability power supply with included batteries, 1U/2U server chassis, high-density storage expansion, new universal rack power distribution unit for global data center interoperability, and standards compliant rack management card. The components can be used independently to meet specific customer data center configurations, Vaid said.

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Microsoft plans to talk more about Olympus at the Datacenter Dynamics: Zettastructure conference in London this week.

Microsoft is introducing the new developments as part of the Open Compute Project , which Microsoft joined in 2014. Facebook was the initial driving force behind OCP, but it quickly picked up momentum, signing on data center operators, including Google and Microsoft, as well as vendors that produce standardized hardware. Telecom companies joined OCP with their own Telecom Infra Project this year. (See Facebook: TIP Will Open Telecom Hardware.)

OCP's reason for existence parallels open source software projects; OCP's data center operator members see little competitive advantage in hardware, and recognize the benefits in sharing expertise to solve common problems.

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— Mitch Wagner, Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, Editor, Light Reading Enterprise Cloud

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