Datacenter Trends

Facebook To Refresh Its Servers, Contribute Blueprints to the Open Compute Project

The company is spearheading an industry wide initiative tasked with the development of the datacenter of the future.

Facebook announced an end-to-end refresh of its entire server hardware fleet, along with plans to contribute the "blueprints" of its servers to the Open Compute Project (OCP) Foundation. The company made the announcements at the annual Open Compute Project Summit, held earlier this month in Santa Clara, Calif. The preliminary specifications for that refresh are available now on the OCP project site

"With people watching more than 100 million hours of video every day on Facebook, 95-plus million photos and videos being posted to Instagram every day and 400 million people now using voice and video chat on Messenger every month, we continue to innovate on our server hardware fleet to scale and improve the performance of our apps and services," wrote Facebook's Technical Program Manager Arlene Gabriana Murillo on the Facebook blog page

The Facebook server fleet refresh will include: the Bryce Canyon high-density storage server, the company's first major storage chassis upgrades since Knox (Open Vault) was released in 2013; Big Basin, Facebook's new GPU server, and the successor to the Big Sur GPU server; The Tioga Pass dual-socket motherboard, the successor to Leopard (the company's first dual-CPU server to use OpenBMC after it was introduced with its Mono Lake server last year); and Yosemite v2, a new version of Yosemite, the company's first-generation multi-node compute platform.

Facebook virtually launched the movement toward shared design and development of more efficient datacenter hardware when it established the OCP in 2011 with a group of partners that included Intel, Rackspace, Goldman Sacks and Sun Microsystem's cofounder Andy Bechtolsheim. The project grew out of an internal Facebook effort that began two years earlier, when, drowning in the Big Data tsunami, the social networking giant realized that it would need to "rethink its infrastructure to accommodate the huge influx of new people and data, and also control costs and energy consumption," the OCP Web site explains. The goal of the project was simple, but daunting: design the world's most energy efficient datacenter. Facebook assigned a small team of engineers to the task, and two years later its designed-and-built-from-the-ground-up datacenter project was up and running in Pineville, Ore.

Facebook open sourced the initiative and, along with its partners, formed the Open Compute Project Foundation, which functions as a standards body similar to the Java Community Process and the Eclipse Foundation. There's a board of directors to run the organization, a mostly elected incubation committee to approve new specifications, and project leads heading up the various OCP projects. Jason Taylor, vice president of infrastructure at Facebook, is the current president and chairman of the OCP Foundation board. His term ends in until October of this year.

Microsoft joined the OCP in 2014, announcing that it would be contributing specs and designs for the cloud servers powering Bing, Windows Azure and Office 365. Apple joined the community in 2015, as did HP, Cisco and Juniper, among others. Amazon Web Services remains conspicuously absent from the community, which seems to have collectively decided that there's no long any need for multiple datacenter hardware specs. Google joined the OCP last year.

"As our infrastructure has scaled, we've had to continue to innovate," Murillo explained. "By designing and building our own servers, we've been able to break down the traditional computing components and rebuild them into modular disaggregated systems. This allows us to replace the hardware or software as soon as better technology becomes available, and provides us with the flexibility and efficiency we need. We're thrilled to bring this flexibility and efficiency to the industry through the Open Compute Project."

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance author and journalist based in Silicon Valley. His latest book is The Everything Guide to Social Media. Follow John on Twitter, read his blog on ADTmag.com, check out his author page on Amazon, or e-mail him at john@watersworks.com.


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