A growing throng of Open Compute Project (OCP) disciples converged on Rackspace headquarters in San Antonio, Texas this week to overturn the established sixty-year-old EIA 310-D rack standard inherited from railroad signaling relays and telephone switching and in its place substitute Open Rack, the very first standard for data centers, especially big hyper-scale data centers like Facebook’s.
Facebook set Open Compute in train a year ago to solve problems it was having trying to shoehorn the compute, storage and networking density it needed into the traditional server rack, a form factor its hardware master calls “blades gone bad.”
Blades supposedly go bad because of what OCP founding board member Andy Bechtolsheim calls “gratuitous differentiation” on the part of vendors and their lock-in-seeking proprietary designs that sacrifice interoperability.
Open Rack is about standardizing the electrical and mechanical interfaces in a rack and saving power. It is based on an airier OpenU (OU) that’s 48mm high instead of the old 44.5mm U so everything can breath and there can be better cable management and more efficient use of the space.
The Open Rack frame is still a familiar and reassuring 24-inch wide but the slot inside is 21-inch wide (though existing 19-inch equipment can still be accommodated). The wider bay can fit three two-socket motherboards or five 3.5-inch disk drives side-by-side.
It’s supposed to lower TCO by lengthening the compute components’ lifespan and reducing industrial waste. OCP imagines that whole servers won’t have to be replaced every two-and-a-half years, just the components, some of which could be good for 10 years. And when Intel or AMD come out with a new dingus just the processor gets upgraded.
Servers won’t have their own power supplies anymore either. They’ll plug into a 12V bus bar at the back of the rack that in turn connects to power shelves in each rack. Bye-bye cables.
Open Rack has three sizes: a triple rack, a single rack and a half rack. Facebook fancies the roomier triple rack.
HP and Dell have new so-called “clean sheet” server and storage designs compatible with Open Rack specification. HP’s is called Project Coyote and Dell’s is called Zeus.
Coyote uses two Xeon E5 processors and is supposed to represent a power savings of up to 50% compared to standard racks. Dell’s widgetry mixes different kinds of servers and storage.
HP, the world’s largest server maker, and Quanta, the world’s largest contract manufacturer, have just joined OCP. So have AMD, Fidelity Investments, Salesforce.com, VMware, Canonical, Avnet, Alibaba, Supermicro, Cloudscaling and Tencent. IBM is still being stand-offish.
HP, Quanta and Tencent have joined the OCP Incubation Committee, which reviews proposed projects to determine whether they should receive official OCP support. The committee is already considering a Facebook design for a “vanity-free” storage server code-named Knox and what are supposed highly efficient motherboard designs for financial services companies from AMD and Intel. AMD’s is called Roadrunner and Intel’s is called Decathlete.
Frank Frankovsky, Facebook’s VP of hardware design and supply chain and OPC chairman and president, says they’re also “mapping out a convergence between Open Rack and Project Scorpio, a similar spec under development by the Chinese Internet giants Tencent and Baidu. They expect the two specs to merge next year.
VMware is promising to certify its vSphere virtualization platform to run on OCP gear, and DDN says it will do the same with its WOS storage system. Canonical means to certify its widgetry for OCP servers before the designs are released.
And there’s now an OCP Solutions Provider program that’s supposed to help companies “sell and consume technology based on Open Compute Project designs.” Hyve, ZT Systems, Avnet and new business units at Quanta and Wistron called QCT and Wiwynn, respectively have been launched to sell directly to consumers and are in line for Solutions Provider status.
Frankovsky said in a blog posting that “The momentum that has gathered behind the project – especially in the last six months – has been nothing short of amazing.”