Facebook Opencompute.org Disrupts Data Center Market

And just like that, the vanity server gets decapitated


Google continues to suck the life out of profits in industry after industry for the benefit of consumers. For example, sure Garmin is worth $7B but it was once worth $25B! Why? In-part because you can now get free turn-by-turn GPS of excellent quality with your Android phone. In the cloud-based email space the company has given away capacity ahead of others like Yahoo, challenging them to increase the amount of storage they provide. The company was one of the firs to provide open APIs for mashups – like for Google maps.

But some areas where the company is not so open is where they consider themselves to have secret sauce which they keep more secure than crown jewels. Case in point is data center design, their virtualization middleware and search algorithms.


But Facebook on the other hand isn’t bound bay the same parameters and as such they just released their opencompute.org design for what they call the most efficient compute at the lowest cost. They say this new design is 38% more efficient and 24% less expensive to build and run than other designs. They looked at electrical design, power distribution, thermal and mechanical design. The company removed components which weren’t needed and they call it a vanity-free design which is devoid of plastic bezels. As a result, the company says the servers are efficient, cheap and reliable while the power supply is over 94.5% efficient. It is worth noting at this point that Google too made a big stink about power supply inefficiently some years back but and even put out a paper (PDF) on the topic in 2006.


Another interesting twist is the data center is used to cool the servers so they use less fans per server. This results in servers which weigh about six pounds less each.

The company says they have opened up everything they can from motherboard specs to server chassis to power supply specs and CAD drawings. They are looking for feedback so they can improve. Moreover they request users take what they have done and implement and adapt it.

A big benefit to Facebook is further entrenching themselves as a cool place to work for younger workers and others who care about energy efficiency and green designs. But perhaps the most important benefit of all is legitimacy – the company just changed its perception as a group of college kids who stumbled onto a great idea and who have trouble keeping data private to one which could potential save corporations, carriers and governments billions of dollars in the near future.

And if you’re Google, you aren’t very happy already as the company recently told its workers their 2011 pay relies on getting better at social and the company has already paid off employees with tens of millions of dollars to keep them from defecting to Twitter. When management wakes up this morning, expect them to be taking an extra dose of Tums.

But that’s not to say Google is in any immediate danger of being dethroned as the advertising leader. But in the battle of hearts and minds – one in which tech companies compete to be the most cool to employees, customers and the tech space in general – Facebook has won a major victory. Not necessarily at the expense of any other company (for the moment) but the result of this move will be even more openness from tech companies looking to compete more effectively for all the resources available in the market from the most talented workers to free publicity from the media.

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