Facebook exec: Celebration "premature" until OEMs open source their x86 systems

Since unveiling its Open Compute Project and data center designs in 2011, Facebook's Open Compute project has been rallying OEMs to support and build open, interchangeable components. At Oscon 2012 today, the project's chief urged developers to accelerate the trend of open source hardware by refusing to buy "gratuitously differentiated" systems
Written by Paula Rooney, Contributor

Facebook’s Open Compute Project leader said the open source movement won’t be complete until all core hardware design specs – including x86 PCs – are open.

And he told hundreds of developers at Oscon 2012 that there’s no victory dance until PCs and server components from OEMs are open, interoperable and interchangeable. Why shouldn't an HP Blade slide into a Dell chassis?" he asked.

“We celebrated prematurely. We broke free from proprietary RISC and to open source Linux and deploy it on proprietary x86,” said Frank Frankovsky, a vice president at  Facebook and chairman and president of the OCP. “We celebrated prematurely. We were getting open source software but the systems are gratuitously differentiated. “

Facebook launched the Open Compute Project in April of 2011 after releasing the design specifications for its server and data center infrastructure. The project has won the backing of most leading hardware vendors.  Execs from Intel and Rackspace, for instance, sit on the Open Compute Project board.

Frankovsky acknowledged that hardware development is capital intensive and it will take time for chip vendors, system vendors and peripherals vendors to evolve to new pastures of innovation.  But he thinks it is inevitable.

“It won’t happen tomorrow or the next day but maybe in the next six to 10 years for Linux to dominate in the enterprise,” he said. “We’ve [got to] get openness in the hardware space. This isn’t going to happen overnight but hopefully not 30 years.”

He said hardware development is closed and needs to open up – and he urged developers to play a role in creating change, a message that may not have gone over too well with some of the conference sponsors.

“If you vote with your wallets, and you believe in the culture of openness, we won’t have to wait 30 years for this trend to take hold in the hardware business,” the Facebook exec said.


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