Facebook-led foundation pushes for open data center tech

Open Compute Project takes shape as industry heavyweights join in

Facebook and several of its high-tech partners are rethinking how companies can handle big data with low-cost computing centers.

Last April, Facebook executives announced that they had teamed with industry heavyweights, including Intel, Advanced Micro Devices, Hewlett-Packard and Dell, to develop server and data center designs for Facebook. Then they shared the specifications of the redesigned data centers with the rest of the industry.

Today, Facebook brought its partners together in New York to report the company's progress on what has been dubbed the Open Compute Project. Frank Frankovsky, director of hardware design and supply chain for Facebook, also announced the formation of an advisory board, along with a nonprofit foundation, to oversee the project. Facebook has also brought Red Hat into the project and published more hardware designs, he said.

"Today, open source isn't just something you use to describe software, but it's a way to describe hardware, as well," said Frankovsky, who also confirmed that Facebook plans to build its first data center outside of the U.S. The new data center, which will largely be fueled by hydropower, will go up in Lulea, Sweden, just south of the Arctic Circle.

While Facebook steered this project from the start, other partners are stepping up to add guidance. During Thursday's Open Compute Summit, executives from Dell, Amazon.com and Intel took the stage to discuss how openly rethinking data centers can help major companies, as well as startups and medium-sized businesses that need efficient and flexible systems.

"Open compute is going to democratize how people can get these modern platforms," said Jason Waxman, general manager of Intel's data center group. "You'll be able to get the equivalent of a Tesla or Prius. You can get an efficient platform that meets your needs. And there will be some people who won't want a Prius, but they'll want a pimped-out golf cart, and they'll be able to get that adaptation."

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

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