Facebook's open source data center: Not necessarily enterprise reality

Will systems and data centers built to Facebook's reference designs be viable in the market?

I just read Facebook open sources its server, data center designs: Hardware fallout to follow and thought I'd weigh in with my commentary as well.

While it appears that Facebook likes and uses its data center and system designs, it is not at all clear that the same designs will work everywhere, for every purpose, for everyone.

Here are a few of the questions that remain to be answered.

System design

Each of the system suppliers have applied a great deal of ingenuity to the designs of their processors, the memory, the interfaces, the power supplies, the internal cooling and the cabinets. What Facebook appears to be offering may or may not be able to be considered a realistic replacement for systems offered today by the major system manufacturers. What needs to be considered are the following points:
  • Are the systems maintainable in all of the different environments that a typical system produced by Dell, HP, IBM and the like are found? If so, who will offer that support?
  • Are the system reliability figures similar to those of different design offered by system suppliers? Have they been tested in all of the environments that are likely to be seen in in the field or have they been designed for the environment found in Facebook's own data center?

Data Center design

Remember that there are many different levels of data centers (the Uptime Institute, for example, speaks about four different tiers of data center design). Each Tier represents the differing needs of different business models.  Some need redundant, N+1, power, cooling, access for cabling  and the like.
  • Does Facebook's reference design take into account the requirement for back up power if one or more of the suppliers of power has a failure?
  • Does Facebook's reference design take into account the requirement for back up communications suppliers and equipment to deal with failures?
  • Will data centers based upon Facebook's reference design work in Alaska where it can be very cold, Arizona where it can get very hot, Florida where it can get very humid (and as an added bonus has thunder and lightening storms which can mess with both power and cooling)?

Snapshot analysis

While I found Facebook's reference designs an interesting attempt to push the state of the art forward. I'm not convinced that their reference designs will meet all of the requirements that today's systems must meet to be commercially viable.