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Facebook opens out Open Compute Project

The social-networking company has set up a foundation to promote its project to share datacentre hardware designs on an open-source model, with the aim of cutting the cost of building facilities
Written by Jack Clark, Contributor

Facebook has launched a foundation to promote its Open Compute Project, which publishes open hardware designs that companies can use to build datacentres relatively cheaply.

Facebook datacentre

Facebook has set up a foundation to promote its project to share datacentre hardware designs on an open-source model. Photo credit: Facebook

The Open Compute Foundation, announced at the Open Compute Summit in New York on Thursday, is dedicated to creating and sharing open-source hardware designs for enterprise-grade infrastructure. It sees Facebook cede oversight of the project to the foundation, though the social-networking company has one of its employees as the chairman of the foundation's governing board.

"What began a few short months ago as an audacious idea — what if hardware were open? — is now a fully formed industry initiative," Frank Frankovsky, Facebook's director of technical operations and chairman of the Open Compute Project Foundation, said in a statement on Thursday. "We are officially on our way."

The Open Compute Project launched in April as a clearing house for open-source hardware designs. Facebook created the project to share the specifications needed to replicate its servers, efficient power delivery and other technology used in its 300,000 square foot datacentre in Prineville, Oregon. That datacentre has a power usage effectiveness (PUE) of 1.07, according to Facebook.

Facebook is also building a datacentre in Lulea, Sweden, which will use an Open Compute Project-based electrical design system for energy efficiency.

"By releasing Open Compute Project technologies as open hardware, our goal is to develop servers and datacentres following the model traditionally associated with open-source software projects," the project wrote on its website. "That's where you come in."

Since the project was set up, Intel, AMD and other companies have contributed by sharing the specifications for motherboards based on their chips. The foundation's full member list has not been released, but it has enlisted Red Hat, Mozilla, Cloudera, Rackspace and Baidu, among others, according to Facebook.

In addition to Frankovsky, the Open Compute Foundation's initial directors and advisers include Andy Bechtolsheim from Arista Networks; Don Duet, managing director of Goldman Sachs; Mark Roenigk, chief executive of Rackspace; and Jason Waxman, Intel's general manager of high-density computing.

According to the bylaws of the foundation, the board of directors can consist of between three and nine individuals (PDF). It has the power to create technical project committees that will determine the focus of the foundation's technical development.

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