Exploring the hardware lab of Facebook is once in a lifetime experience that probably nobody would like to miss. When you take a stroll to its inner chamber, you are able to see the one of the most dedicated teams of hardware nerds taking up the slender server racks to transform them into smarter, more efficient, faster and more flexible servers.
Chief hardware executive at Facebook, Frank Frankovsky says about the proceedings at inner sanctum, “When you live in the hardware world, you typically see it from the inside,” He adds, “When you jump into the middle of a fast-moving software company, you realize, we’ve got to make hardware move faster.” (Source: goo.gl/AczZ5s)
Facebook announced the Open Compute Project initiative in April 2011 to share the designs of data centre products, of which open-source hardware movement is a part and Frankovsky is leading the effort. The Open Compute Project is an attempt by the Facebook to bring speed to hardware innovation. Their big data centre in Princeville, Oregon works on open-source servers and have proven to be worthy investment.
What is Open-source hardware?
Designed and offered by the open design movement, open-source hardware comprises physical aspects of technology. The open-source culture movement creates Free and Open-Source Software (FOSS). It applies similar kind of concept to different components. The hardware designs, including mechanical drawings, schematics, bills of material, PCB layout data, Hardware Description Language (HDL) source code and integrated circuit layout data, besides software that makes hardware, work with the FOSS approach.
The development of reconfigurable programming logic devices has resulted in the sharing of logic designs with the help of open-source hardware. It uses HDL on the place of the schematics.
Open Compute proving useful to the companies
It has been an interesting process to get the manufacturer and owners of data centre onboard. The Open Compute Summit held in January 2013, informed the suppliers about the lying challenges, particularly around the cold-storage design and disaggregated designs.
The Open Compute provides a clear idea about what is latest and what is out-dated in the large-scale computing world to the data centre and server suppliers, who are also made abreast of the future demands from their biggest customers.
Open Compute has done a lot in the computing sector. Every company, irrespective of their size, looks forward to build their infrastructure to match the highest level. And, to do that they are going to need a cloud and a blueprint for the more efficient IT organisations.
Usually, such clients depend upon the vendors like Dell or HP and get locked into a single stack as is the case with big enterprise software.
The companies breaking ground on a new data centre can get some valuable hardware assistance from the Facebook’s project.
Open-source impacts the businesses in long term
The data for co-location and smaller operations are also published by the open compute. It shows that non-enterprise companies no more require running their backend with the cloud. Facebook shares optimisation made by it at its leased facilities, which are not customised and where customers can install open-source hardware in a uniform way.
However, there are some problems associated with open-source hardware. These problems could be pure fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) whereas some are legitimate. Such problems are quite similar to the ones that surrounded and hindered the acceptance of open-source software.
Frankovsky cited the problem as the friction in the license agreements applied to the hardware space. The open-source is relatively new to the legal teams of many suppliers, who do not have any idea on how this is going to impact their businesses in long term.
So, with the new development in the form of open-source software and hardware in the computing world, Facebook is looking forward to significant contribution in the business sector.