The humbling of vanity hardware
South African enterprises may reap indirect benefit from the Open Compute Project - eventually.
Facebook decided three years ago to open-source its server and data centre designs to drive down costs and drive up efficiencies in the data centre. Today, the Open Compute Project - the open source foundation it launched to champion the cause of 'vanity-free' servers and storage for the data centre - has the support of organisations like Goldman Sachs, Rackspace and Microsoft.
Open Compute adds legitimacy to non-vanity hardware as an alternative to today's 'vanity' hardware from the mainstream vendors.JJ Milner, MD, Global Micro Solutions
Between them, the project's members buy hundreds of thousands of servers and have the market power to bend hardware vendors to their collective will. Their goal is to push the vendors to build cooler-running, more energy-efficient hardware that packs more computing density per square metre than current servers and storage. It flips the IT industry paradigm from one where vendors used to lead technology innovation to one where enterprise IT users are in the driver's seat.
The essential promise from the members of Open Compute is that if they align behind a design, vendors can be sure they'll buy products based on it. Some examples of the work the Open Compute community has done include designs for energy-efficient servers, a 100% air-side economiser and evaporative cooling system, server chassis and racks, and even an open source switch.
This is a market shift that could have profound effects for data centre managers in SA in the years to come. Outside of the largest service providers and initiatives such as the Square Kilometre Array telescope, there are few South African data centres that will have the scale to truly benefit from the outputs of Open Compute, says JJ Milner, MD of Global Micro Solutions.
However, the project adds legitimacy to non-vanity hardware as an alternative to today's 'vanity' hardware from the mainstream vendors, he says. The result could be enormous downward pressure of the price of servers and hardware, as even vendors that choose not to adopt Open Compute designs slash prices to remain competitive.
Since major vendors have yet to launch products based on the Open Compute designs, it will be a while before enterprises will reap the benefits of the initiative, says Abid Qadiri, chief of business solutions at Neotel. However, large South African data centres will start adopting Open Compute equipment once the vendors start using the designs in their products, he adds. The power efficiencies will be difficult for them to resist.