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Interest in Open-source Hardware Designs Grow

The world is becoming more connected through technology and consumers are utilizing feature rich electronic devices to generate and access increasingly huge volumes of data. The expanding capacity and scalability required to manage all this data is driving demand for new initiatives and designs in conventional computing infrastructures.

Inspired in part by necessity, today's large scale computing equipment stakeholders such as web hosting and data center type companies are making important design and technology advances through innovative open-source collaborations. Whether it's because they use massive server resources or because they design and sell hardware, reducing bottom-line costs and increasing choices are the major reasons for pooling resources and creating open-source designs.

In January of this year, Facebook announced significant progress in winning interest for its Open Compute Project (OCP), a crowdsourcing attempt to design efficient, cost-effective hyperscale computing hardware1. Developed from Facebook's own challenges in creating improved hardware for high-scale computing, the OCP community has grown from 1 founding member (Facebook) to 50 members, and the fourth OCP Summit attracted 2,000 participants – gaining significant momentum in just 18 months since its initial launch. Through open-source hardware collaborations, new partnerships are created - some of which might not otherwise have been - new specifications are shared, knowledge is coalesced, and problem solving occurs.

While the concept of open-source hardware collaboration is arguably still in its early stages, we shouldn't consider this model well suited for just hyperscale size operations only. The World Wide Web is quickly growing and we can anticipate smaller scale operations benefiting from the advantages of open-source designs too. Open-source designs can potentially reduce costs for any scale of operation. Furthermore, it is not unrealistic to predict smaller server system platforms [like 1U and tower] taking advantage of design concepts originally developed from open-source collaborations.

Even though we expect to see more companies building systems using the collective wisdom and technology of the open-source community, we shouldn't assume the data center managers and designers will depart from buying servers and storage equipment from traditional IT vendors. The existing tech giants will still be selling massive amounts of server equipment and, to some degree, will be adapting their businesses to serve the evolving market place. Whether new ideas are introduced by traditional large storage and server manufacturers or from the evolving open-source community, expect system designs to continue progressing with more adaptable configurations that actually fit the workloads they run.

1 OCP Summit IV: Breaking Up the Monolith

The views expressed on this post are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of TAEC or Toshiba Corporation.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of Toshiba America Electronic Components, Inc.

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