Guide to the Open Source Data Center Hardware of Facebook

In 2011, one of Facebook’s largest moves was to roll out its Open Compute Project. With this move, Facebook managed to initiate a sort of revolution in the data center industry. While Facebook receives much of the credit for this revolution, it is important to note that this movement had actually begun a few years before with Google. In fact, if it weren’t for Google, it is possible that the Open Compute Project would not exist today.

Shortly before the Open Compute Project, Google had realized that it was more advantageous for them to design their own hardware rather than to buy from the top vendors in the industry. It was only after Google came to this realization did Facebook also have an epiphany about the benefits of using self-designed hardware over off-the-shelf hardware.

The Open Compute Project, which is a non-profit organization, works to compile open source hardware and designs for data centers and other infrastructure in hopes of facilitating the transition to open source software ethos in the technology industry. However, OCP has grown and developed to become a hub for vendors and operators to develop new Internet infrastructure according to the requirements of the operators rather than the vendors.

In fact, both Apple and Microsoft have joined the Open Compute Project. So far, Microsoft has added a few cloud server designs. Google, which joined more recently, plans to add designs for a data center rack and power distribution. These designs will be for the same infrastructure that is used in Google facilities. Many telcos have become involved with the Open Compute Project in order to transform infrastructure to support Network Function Virtualization and Software Defined Networking. Financial services firms that need cost-effective yet efficient infrastructure have also joined the movement.

As the creator of the Open Compute Project, Facebook was the first to contribute designs for infrastructure. Unsurprisingly, Facebook has contributed the most designs for infrastructure than any other company. Some of the Facebook contributions include designs for software, servers, network hardware, and electrical infrastructure components. Over time, however, it is possible that other companies will come to surpass Facebook as the main contributor to the project. As for what we can expect for the overall future of this project, only time can tell.