One unique thing that Facebook does is something called the Open Compute Project. That’s where Facebook builds it own hardware-like computer servers, hard drives and networking equipment that it uses to serve up the Facebook website.
Thanks to OCP, Facebook has saved “more than a $US1 billion in the last three years,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg told attendees of the OCP Summit in San Jose, Calif.
A lot of big Internet companies, like Google and Amazon, also design their own hardware, but they treat their homegrown technology as a secret, a competitive advantage.
OCP is unique because it gives Facebook’s tech away for free. And it has invited others to contribute, too, a concept called “open-source hardware.”
“When you’re the first company to design something, sometimes there’s an advantage to keeping it proprietary and secret,” Zuckerberg explained. “For us it was much better to collaborate with the community and … deliver something that could blow past what anyone else had done.”
In the three years that OCP has been around, it has attracted a large community of hardware users and startups, including one launched by a 17-year-old electrical engineering prodigy this week.
All of them are trying to build faster, better, cheaper servers, storage, networks and other associated data center equipment (like server racks).
Even Microsoft, another company that runs huge data centres all over the world to serve up Bing, Xbox Live and cloud computing, has decided to share its custom-designed servers with the OCP community, PC World’s John Ribeiro reports.
In addition to saving money, Zuckerberg says that OCP equipment is greener. It has allowed Facebook to save enough energy to power 40 million homes, and it has reduced carbon emissions “the equivalent to taking 50,000 cars off the road for a year.”
He adds: “If we can bring those kinds of savings and those kinds of efficiencies to other companies as well, that’s great, and we’re really proud of that.”
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