The data center media is a buzz about Facebook opening up its data center design to the masses. Kudos to Facebook for launching this Open Compute Project which hopes to share best practices on data center infrastructure and design.  Best practices that hopefully with lead to greater IT innovation and thus growth for Facebook and companies like Facebook operating in the cloud. Facebook’s Open Compute Project says a lot about the impact Cloud Computing may be having on the IT hardware market in general.

My 5 takeaways to keep an eye on…

#1 Influence
Has server and storage design expertise shifted from hardware provider to user? Historically, the IT market has been influenced by the likes of Intel, Microsoft, HP, and Dell in the technology solutions provided.  With the advent of cloud computing influence appears to have shifted from builder to user in terms of the solutions needed. The influencers are becoming the influencees and vice versa.

#2 Simplicity
By the looks of the CAD drawings, the server design is quite simplistic, which is the beauty of the program.  By making the hardware behind the cloud simple to manage and service, companies like Facebook can save on support infrastructure costs and reduce downtime, two staples of nearly every technology hardware provider’s value proposition for the past 10 years. Does such simplicity argue that the infrastructure to operate a business in the cloud is less complex than one operated in the traditional data center. I would argue not since one cloud application hardware demands will differ from the next, but I applaud the focus on simplicity.

#3 Customization
Given my point around the underlying complexity in determining the right hardware for the right cloud application, the need for some customization is evident. HP and Dell both have divisions solely dedicated to customized cloud solutions.  Over the past 5 years, we have seen servers are storage get less customized with the exception of features like capacity, processors, expansion, etc.  Now we are talking about customizing servers for a specific application in the cloud. Will this catalyze the return of the white-box server? The fact that Synnex (a large distributor in the channel), according to, has plans for the Open Compute Project platforms may suggest so.

#4 Competition
Facebook’s design eliminates branding from the outside of the box. No plastic bezels that indicate who the server came from. No sexy product design, no unique colors…hence the term vanity-free in the description of the chassis. So, no more cool pictures of racks and racks of Dell or HP servers in marketing collateral or advertisements? Kidding aside, the fact that the platforms Facebook has developed are made available to everyone, does this mean more an more competition for the business?  Will ODMs rise to the task and build “brand-less” solutions for the cloud providers? Will smaller system builders enter the fray? Heck, will component manufacturers offer complete solutions?  This could get interesting…

#5 Alliances
With companies like Facebook becoming influencers in designing simplistic, customized solutions for the cloud, combined with  increased competition among OEMs, component suppliers, ODMs, and the channel, closer, stronger relationships will forge between cloud service providers and hardware manufacturers. Relationships that yield greater investment in innovation and services that enable companies like Facebook to not only thrive, but expand and grow.  This was one of the core reasons Facebook implemented the Open Compute Project, and ultimately it has to lead to more strategic alliances in order to evolve.

There is no doubt the cloud is changing the way IT thinks about the future. It just so happens to also change the way IT hardware manufacturers develop solutions and bring them to market.

What else do you see between the lines?

Related Posts:

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CES 2011: functionality will “drive” capacity
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Biggest server monsters taking over the world, Exabyte by Exabyte
Cliff Notes: Seagate whitepaper on cloud computing

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