Microsoft offers open source designs to Open Compute Project

This marks the first time Microsoft makes a contribution in the early stage of development.

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Microsoft continues to make its push into the hardware world with the announcement of Project Olympus, an open-source hardware design was created for the Open Compute Project (OCP) that can be modified and extended by the public.

It's not the first time Microsoft has offered its hardware designs for things like its Azure servers or software-defined networking, but it is the first time the company has contributed an open-source hardware design to the OCP at an early stage of development. Usually the company gives a finished product.

The announcement was made via a blog post by Kushagra Vaid, general manager of Azure infrastructure at Microsoft, just before he was to speak at the Zettastructure conference in London. Vaid said that open-source hardware design is too difficult for developers to work with in its current state.

"The current process for open hardware development is to contribute designs that are production-ready. At that stage, the design is essentially finalized -- almost 100% complete -- and this late contribution delays the development of derivative designs, limits interactive community engagement and adoption, and slows down overall delivery," he wrote.

So Microsoft is deliberately delivering a project that is only 50% complete. It hopes the community will contribute to the ecosystem by downloading, modifying, and forking the hardware design "just like open source software."

Project Olympus itself consists of a universal server board, high-availability power supply with batteries, 1U/2U server chassis, high-density storage shelf, a new universal rack PDU and a standards-compliant rack management card. Further details are expected at the Zettastructure show.

Microsoft joined OCP in 2014 and now says that 90 percent of the servers it uses in its data centers are based on OCP-contributed specifications.

Over the next few weeks, Microsoft and OCP will be releasing specs to a GitHub repository. This won't be code, it will be hardware and software specifications as well as collateral files like schematics, board files, and mechanical assemblies.

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