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Home-grown server kit saves Facebook 'a BEELLION dollars'

Open hardware + open software + data centers = immense savings

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Facebook says it has saved itself more than a billion dollars over the past three years by customizing its data-center hardware.

By using gear assembled by the likes of Quanta and Wiwynn, the web giant has saved a significant amount of money, Facebook's veep of hardware engineering Jay Parikh said on Tuesday. The social network also relies on canny server warehouse layouts and a bevy of open-source software – but, crucially, its systems are built to order, cutting traditional server makers out of the equation.

"Over the last three years our infrastructure and focus on efficiency has saved us over $1.2bn dollars," beamed Parikh in his keynote speech at the Open Compute Summit in San Jose, California, today.

This figure comes from "across all layers of the stack – datacenter, hardware, software," a Facebook spokesman told The Register via email. To put the saving in context, Facebook's global revenue for 2012 was $5bn, and its net income $53m.

These customized systems in Facebook's data centers are publicly documented by the social network's Open Compute Project: specifications and diagrams for OCP kit are published under liberal licenses for anyone to use. The cost savings boasted today could tempt other companies to use the freely available technology.

Microsoft, for instance, confirmed its participation in OCP today, and donated two server blueprints. These machines have saved Redmond's per-server cost by 40 per cent, and cut power consumption by 15 per cent, the Windows giant said.

Though OCP gear is, for now, most likely to be used by large data center operators such as Rackspace, Riot Games, Goldman Sachs, Microsoft, and Facebook, there are indications other organizations smell the cost savings and are working to sling the cut-price boxes to smaller IT shops as well.

Finally, the development of vanity-free networking boxes is underway, which hints at further cost savings to come. If Facebook is anything to go by, companies may be able to trim their IT budgets by investing in the open hardware approach. ®

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