Facebook's Open Compute Project Takes Pages From Open Source

by Sam Dean - Apr. 08, 2011Comments (1)

As Facebook has extended its reach over the past several years, it has also had to deal with issues pertaining to massively scalable computing architectures. In fact, more than once the company has devised plans for a new data center only to double its intended size before it's even built. In the case of its new Prineville, Oregon data center, the company has announced a new "open source" model for its design and documentation. The company's Open Compute Project is an attempt to get tech industry titans to share strategies and designs for massively scalable computing architectures. A new video explains the Open Compute Project.

You can watch Facebook's Open Compute Project video hereAs GigaOM notes:

"The biggest deal about Facebook's Open Compute project isn’t the project, it’s the wave of innovation this can bring forward at the systems level — which will affect everyone from the chipmakers to the giant systems vendors and data center operators."

True enough, if Facebook gains buy-in from other large tech companies, the ripple effect from the Open Compute Project could be massive. The Register notes:

"According to Facebook, anyone can use the designs without paying licensing fees. Over the past 18 months, Facebook worked in tandem with 10 to 15 partners on the designs, but the company said that all partners have agreed to share all the IP in the designs as part of their participation in the Open Compute Project."

Google, of course, has always kept volumes of secrets regarding its data centers, and Facebook's effort to open up a project like this is admirable. Already, though, the term "open source" is being thrown around quite loosely regarding the Open Compute Project. There will indeed be an open source layer at the system level in Facebook's data center architecture, but it remains to be seen how truly open the Open Compute Project will be when it comes to end-to-end data center architecture.

In essence, this project is more proof that Facebook's sheer size and popularity have started to present the company with unprecedented computing problems--and especially unprecedented problems having to do with operating in the cloud. To deliver the kind of uptime and performance that Facebook requires, it needs everyone from chipmakers to open source players in the cloud to ramp up efforts aimed at massively scalable computing, and share. It would be good to see this effort result in open components that have never been seen before.

You can watch a video on the Open Compute Project here

John Mark Walker uses OStatic to support Open Source, ask and answer questions and stay informed. What about you?


It's pretty easy to make software that works for only a few users, but it's a lot harder to make it scale to even millions. I know I wouldn't want to be a developer for facebook. Moving toward open source should help though.

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