The Hardware Facebook Invented Is Radically Changing The $US150 Billion Enterprise Market

Facebook is leading a revolution in how enterprise hardware is built.

About two and half years ago, it launched the Open Compute Project (OCP) to create “open source” data center hardware. That means hardware vendors like HP, Dell and Cisco, who basically own the $150 billion data center hardware market, no longer control the product designs. Customers like Facebook and Goldman Sachs do.

Because customers are the designers, OCP’s hardware projects use fewer materials, cost less and perform better than what traditional vendors typically offer.

Because they are “open source” projects, anyone can help with the designs and OCP gives the designs away for free. An enterprise can take them, modify them, and send them out to contract manufacturers, who are standing by to build them.

The OCP project has lead to about a dozen game-changing new pieces of hardware.

This is the 'Open Rack,' one of the first OCP hardware projects ...

Compare the Open Rack to the typical closed rack like these from IBM

The racks look like the sci-fi data center in from the James Bond 'Skyfall' movie

Skyfall data center

This is the 'Winterfell' web server. This box holds three computer servers that dish out Web pages and they slide into the open rack.

This is Dragonstone, a database server that uses only flash memory, the same type of memory used in a smartphone or thumb drive. It slides into an open rack.

Compare that to this brand new high-end Oracle database server.

Oracle Exadata server

This is the new Group Hug Board, the most disruptive idea, yet. It turns a motherboard into a Lego-like assembly project where you can pick all the pieces, even the main processor, and snap them together.

Here's what an Intel motherboard usually looks like, with most of the components wired on.

Intel motherboard

This is an OCP project called the 'AMD Roadrunner.' It's a motherboard that will fit in a regular rack. It's a way to use the OCP servers with racks an enterprise already owns.

This is the 'open vault storage rack.' This box can be loaded with small-but-dense storage drives. Stacks of them can be put into the Open Rack.

There is an Open Vault for 'cold' storage. Those are files that aren't accessed very often but need to be kept anyway. Cold storage needs to be high capacity and cheap.

Facebook's OCP team also announced plans to build a new network switch that could compete with Cisco. There is no prototype or picture of it yet. Facebook's Najam Ahmad is leading the project.

Put it all together on an Open Rack and it looks like this ...

Facebook Open Compute Project

Again, compare that to a high-end server and rack from IBM, pictured here.

IBM PureSystems server

The Facebook team is always thinking up new ideas, too, via hackathons. This is a server board submerged in oil to keep it cool.

Hardware hackathoners also baked microchips in a toaster oven for some far-out engineering reason.

OCP is spreading internationally, too. It's in Taiwan, where most of the world's hardware is built, and in Japan.

T.C. Chiueh, Richard Lee and Charlie Manese at the OCPT launch

OCP lead to the Open Incubate accelerator program to fund open source hardware startups. It's backed by Austin Ventures, Battery Ventures, and The Valley Fund.

Here's a look at the software side of enterprise tech

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