Facebook open sources its server, data center designs: Hardware fallout to follow

Facebook open sources its server, data center designs: Hardware fallout to follow

Summary: Facebook launched an initiative it calls the Open Compute Project, an effort to share the specs and designs of the custom servers in its data center in Prineville, Ore. In other words, Facebook is going to open source its hardware designs.

SHARE:

Facebook on Thursday launched an initiative it calls the Open Compute Project, an effort to share the specs and designs of the custom servers in its data center in Prineville, Ore. In other words, Facebook is going to open source its hardware designs just like the software industry largely has.

In many respects, Facebook is open sourcing its data center and server designs. Jonathan Heiliger, vice president of technical operations, said the Open Compute Project is a way of giving back. It's also a way to get vendors with more scale to incorporate Facebook's designs to meet its needs with cheaper systems.

The big question is what tech vendors---all pitching their own designs---will make of Facebook's effort. The move to rid servers of vanity plastic would mean no branding. Facebook went completely barebones. That works for efficient computing, but leaves little for vendors to differentiate with. The figures, however, lean toward Facebook's favor.

While the fallout remains to be seen, the fact Facebook is detailing all of its specifications for servers and its data center---including the CAD drawings---is going to be disruptive.

Facebook's PUE rating, the power used for data center compute, came in at 1.07. The industry average is 1.5 PUE and Facebook's leased data center is 1.4 to 1.6 PUE.

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, said:

You can build servers and design them or get the products that the mass manufacturers put out. A lot of the stuff put out wasn't in line with what we needed. We're not the only ones that need the hardware we're building out.

Among the key points:

  • On the server designs, Facebook went lightweight and ditched any screws and "vanity plastic." The chassis is simple and has 22 percent fewer materials. Indeed, Facebook's servers weigh 6 pounds less. Facebook also went with custom Intel and AMD motherboard. Expansion slots were ditched. Power supplies were simplified and included with a backup. Power supply efficiency exceeds 94 percent. Racks are in triplets for easy deployment and swaps.

  • Facebook aimed to cut the energy loss from the grid to the motherboard. There's a 480 volt electrical system through the data center and 277 volts go directly to each server.

  • Facebook's data center has no air conditioning system. It is cooled with outside air. Walls eliminate water particles to only get the cool air. There is no duct work in the data center.

  • Facebook uses localized uninteruptable power supplies serving six racks of servers.

The upshot here is that many IT buyers will look at Facebook designs and incorporate them into what they do. It's highly likely that technology vendors will have to respond.

A few thoughts:

  • Facebook's move will change the intellectual property dynamics in the hardware industry. How many IT buyers and vendors are already working to solve the same problems Facebook has?
  • Smaller companies such as Zynga will simply adopt Facebook designs.
  • IT buyers may start asking for Facebook's data center approach. Dell is already offering systems based on Facebook's designs.
  • Existing hardware vendors may see more commodity pricing.
  • Open standards are going to make it more difficult for hardware giants pitching proprietary stacks.

Forrester said in a blog post:

Even more valuable is Facebook’s decision to publish its server, rack and power specifications as part of the “Open Compute Project”, an initiative they are promoting to make these specifications available to users and vendors in the hopes of creating an ecosystem around these stripped down cost optimized servers and associated infrastructure. Facebook claims it is to encourage the development of new web companies by making it easier for them to build world-class infrastructure. Even if their true motivations are also weighted by a less altruistic goal of further lowering their costs by creating a community of multiple competing suppliers, Facebook deserves credit for sharing their IP with a wider and in some cases potentially competitive world.

Topics: Hardware, Data Centers, Open Source, Servers, Storage, Social Enterprise

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

56 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • RE: Facebook open sources its server, data center designs: Hardware fallout to follow

    interesting
    mcarpenter1971
  • RE: Facebook open sources its server, data center designs: Hardware fallout to follow

    Interesting!! I would say WOW. That's a 500%+ savings in heat and energy dissipation because of conversions. Think of the saving in A/C and ducting with the associated backups for those systems as well. This is a perfect bare bones system, as much waste has been removed as is possible. Great Job.
    pamam@...
    • RE: Facebook open sources its server, data center designs: Hardware fallout to follow

      @pamam@... can one have a 500% saving in energy loss? Wouldn't that mean Facebook was actually generating more energy than it was using? Now, _that_ would be clever! ;-)
      Jeremy Gooch
      • RE: Facebook open sources its server, data center designs: Hardware fallout to follow

        @Jeremy Gooch exactly, everyone seeing how much they save. But no one looks at how much they used. <a href="http://astoundcom.com/services/data-center-support/migration-services/">data center migration</a>
        raghavtt
  • Air cooling

    It does have an air cooling system, its just a ductless system that uses evaporative cooling. Presumably this climate fits such a system, as my understanding is evaporative cooling will not work well (or at all) in humid climates.

    It is interesting to see a company reconsidering design to eliminate or reduce waste regardless.
    dchase@...
    • RE: Facebook open sources its server, data center designs: Hardware fallout to follow

      @dchase@...

      I don't think it would work too well in an Australian summer where temperatures can hit 105+ F.

      Water might be a better option.
      alsobannedfromzdnet
      • RE: Facebook open sources its server, data center designs: Hardware fallout to follow

        @alsobannedfromzdnet Perhaps they can go underground?
        m@...
      • Prineville weather

        I'm only guessing, but I'll SWAG that dchase is on the button: Prineville/Bend is a "High Desert" location, a place of extremely low humidity and large variations in daily temperature. More than 100F is unusual, but it happens. Multi-day stretches of 90+ Highs are common in July and August, but those same days will usually have lows in the 50s. And yes, evaporate cooling works REALLY well.
        Rick S._z
  • RE: Facebook open sources its server, data center designs

    Fresh thinking that pays off and sharing their server specs and designs! Great job! Open source helps in so many ways.
    LinuxPops
    • RE: RE: Facebook Open Sources

      @LinuxPops I agree, keeping information like this to yourself really hinders the development and advance of the whole. Kudos Facebook.
      SociallyDave
    • Open Source by mulit-billion dollar companies...

      @LinuxPops

      Is done purely as a competitive advantage against your competition.
      Bruizer
      • RE: Facebook open sources its server, data center designs: Hardware fallout to follow

        @Bruizer so what? That's one of the points of open sources, to let competing designs flower and find out what's the best by actual results and value.
        kalliste
    • Wow, open source gets credit for everything

      @LinuxPops Sharing your designs and knowledge used to just be called sharing and collaboration. Now we have to recast everything to include "open source".

      The title could have simply been: Facebook shares its server designs.
      otaddy
  • Is it worth the cost?

    this is all well and fine but for the majority of server users, is this even close to cost effective?<br><br>How does this help someone who has 5-XX servers max?<br>Usually the benefits are only avaliable to those companies who use it to this scale, for the large majority it will probally cost more then it saves.
    Will Farrell
    • RE: Facebook open sources its server, data center designs: Hardware fallout to follow

      @Will Farrell Large companies are the ones who need designs like this because they have thousands of servers.
      Jimster480
    • RE: Facebook open sources its server, data center designs: Hardware fallout to follow

      @Will Farrell:
      You're right, tiny firms and individuals with just 5 servers have NO interest in rack versus row versus room cooling, and NO interest use of a high-efficiency DC power distribution system (replacing dedicated power supplies in each server farm "box). But there are lots, LOTS of companies using server farms of this type.

      My thanks to Facebook for opening their Kimono, and helping others to become become more efficient!
      Rick S._z
  • RE: Facebook open sources its server, data center designs: Hardware fallout to follow

    I didn`t know Prineville, Oregon was a data center hot-spot ?
    plgibson1@...
    • RE: Facebook open sources its server, data center designs: Hardware fallout to follow

      @plgibson1@... It was not... until now...

      They are proposing a name change to "Faceless Facebook Server Capital of America"...
      cosuna
    • Not yet.

      @plgibson1@... It's not, but Oregon invested in fiber-optic rings and now it's practical to site in central Oregon, on top of an extinct volcano's caldera which is hugely geologically stable, close to some pretty nice real estate. I should know, my brother lives there.
      K7AAY
      • RE: Facebook open sources its server, data center designs: Hardware fallout to follow

        @johnbartley:
        Yep, if they offer me a job- it's a GREAT place to live. Prineville == Bend. Some great resorts for both Summer and Winter fun, a lot of culture things too. The only bad thing is, it's a long drive to a truly BIG city. (Portland being the closest.)
        Rick S._z