Of all the things that Facebook does, its Open Compute Project is among the most interesting.It is designing new servers, storage, even whole data centres and giving those designs away for free as an open source project — and its enlisted a bunch of IT industry heavyweights to help.
These Open Compute servers have the power to change the hardware industry, in the way that Linux and open source software changed the software industry.
When Facebook designs its own servers, it has Asian manufacturers build the hardware. It is then shipped to Facebook.
When the first batch of servers arrived at Facebook from China un-assembled, there were no instructions, and the pieces were in plastic bags, recalls Frank Frankovsky, director of hardware design at Facebook.
“One of the design tenents was how simple can we make this?” says Frankovsky. They didn’t have instructions and they figured they shouldn’t need them.
Facebook threw a server building party to see how hard it was to assemble. It invited 30 people, grabbed some pizza and beer and challenged the crowd to build these things. How quickly could someone assemble one? Answer: three minutes.
Three minutes? That’s faster than it takes the average Joe to unbox a gaming console and hook it up the TV.
Facebook has since moved on to design other stuff, including server racks to hold its super-simple servers. And it’s now working with dozens of others who are in on the open source hardware party too.