Feeds

Facebook's open hardware: Does it compute?

Open hardware is not open source

Protecting against web application threats using SSL

Does Facebook need a server maker?

There are many lessons that the traditional server makers will immediately learn from the Facebook server designs and the Open Computer project.

The first thing is that hyperscale data center operators not only don't want to use general purpose machines, but to extract the most money from their businesses as possible, they can't use them. And that will not change as long as advertising on the Internet is a cut-throat business and consumers are unwilling to pay a lot of money for an application or a service (the difference is moot at this point). General purpose machines, with all that plastic and metal, with their service processors and wide variety of slots and peripheral options, are too expensive for Facebook, just as they have been for more traditional supercomputing cluster customers that have long-since preferred bare-bones boxes.

The second thing hyperscale Web customers - and maybe soon even enterprise and midrange shops - will figure out pretty damned quick is that once they have virtualized you server workloads and have high availability and failover built into your software stack, they won't need all those extra features either. And they will want the cheapo, minimalist servers, too. And they may not even go to the HPs, Dells, and IBMs of the world to get them. They may go straight to Quanta Computer for the motherboards, go straight to whoever is bending the metal for the chassis and the racks for Facebook, and go straight to disk and memory makers for those components, too.

It was telling that Dell's Data Center Solutions unit, which has been doing custom servers for four years and has been building bespoke machines for Facebook for the past three years, was at the event. While Forrest Norrod, vice president of Dell's server platforms, said that Dell was now building systems based on the two Facebook motherboards, he did not say that DCS was building servers for Facebook any more.

Now, extrapolate to those young upstart companies in the 20 top-growth economies of the world. Are they going to go for PowerEdge-C quasi-custom boxes from Dell, or ProLiant SL tray servers from HP, or iDataPlex servers from IBM, or will they watch carefully what Facebook does and just try to buy the cheapo boxes Facebook has designed at wholesale prices instead of retail? I think we know the answer to that question. Did China wire itself with land lines when it created a real economy a decade ago? No, China went straight to cell phones.

The question is will Open Compute actually foment a community of hardware designers and open source specs, especially when the community that is most in need of super-efficiency does not like to share information about their servers, storage, software, and data centers because this is, in actuality, the very essence of the company. I think the answer is, sorry to say, probably not. Hardware costs real money, but twiddling around with bits of open source code doesn't really cost open source coders anything.

Who knows? Perhaps service companies all around the world will spring up, bending metal and building Open Compute boxes and offering add-on tech support or other services for these machines. It would be a very interesting way to get some new players with new ideas into the server racket. At best, there might be one or two Open Compute distributors some day, but that might be just enough to change the server business from a push - buy what we got - to a pull - what do you want? ®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
Wanna keep your data for 1,000 YEARS? No? Hard luck, HDS wants you to anyway
Combine Blu-ray and M-DISC and you get this monster
Google+ GOING, GOING ... ? Newbie Gmailers no longer forced into mandatory ID slurp
Mountain View distances itself from lame 'network thingy'
US boffins demo 'twisted radio' mux
OAM takes wireless signals to 32 Gbps
Apple flops out 2FA for iCloud in bid to stop future nude selfie leaks
Millions of 4chan users howl with laughter as Cupertino slams stable door
Students playing with impressive racks? Yes, it's cluster comp time
The most comprehensive coverage the world has ever seen. Ever
Run little spreadsheet, run! IBM's Watson is coming to gobble you up
Big Blue's big super's big appetite for big data in big clouds for big analytics
Seagate's triple-headed Cerberus could SAVE the DISK WORLD
... and possibly bring us even more HAMR time. Yay!
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.