Facebook rolls out open-source datacentre hardware

Facebook has made its stripped-down storage and rack designs available to businesses via the Open Compute Project, a move that could have an impact on the datacentre industry in a number of ways.Facebook will contribute its low-cost storage hardware to open-source hardware design clearing house the Open Compute Project, the company's Frank Frankovsky has said.

Facebook has made its stripped-down storage and rack designs available to businesses via the Open Compute Project, a move that could have an impact on the datacentre industry in a number of ways.

Frank Frankovsky

Facebook will contribute its low-cost storage hardware to open-source hardware design clearing house the Open Compute Project, the company's Frank Frankovsky has said. Screenshot: Jack Clark

Facebook will contribute its low-cost storage hardware to open-source hardware design clearing house the Open Compute Project, Frank Frankovsky, the project's chairman and Facebook's director of technical operations, said on Wednesday at the Open Compute Summit.

He also said the social-network company has worked with top Chinese search engine Baidu and web portal Tencent on creating a new standard for datacentre rack designs, dubbed Open Rack, to make racks cheaper and easier to modify. Initially, HP and Dell will create new bits of hardware for the new rack.

"What Open Rack is going to do is completely standardise the mechanical and electrical interfaces... think of it as a new hardware-based API," Frankovsky said. "Because we already have suppliers designing for this standard, this is going to give [datacentre buyers] flexibility and choice."

At 21 inches, the racks are slightly wider than the industry-standard 19 inches, Frankovsky said, which should let companies have more hot swappable components at the front of servers.

The technology should deal with airflow problems as well, he said. The Open Rack design takes power supplies away from server and network hardware and embeds them directly into the rack, via 12V power distribution bus bars. This should cut the basic cost of datacentre infrastructure and make it easier to service, he said.

In his keynote speech he gave few details on the storage technology, with more information expected later in the day.

Facebook launched the Open Compute Project in April 2011 with designs for low-cost, bare bones servers. Since then the project has broadened to include motherboards, racks and, now, storage hardware. In November the company turned the project into an independent foundation to encourage greater industry involvement.

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