From the Lab

OCP Aims for Flexibility, Lower Costs

Data centers require heavy investments in fixed assets. For several years, however, industry players have been pushing back. The move into less expensive rural sites is one example. Modular and pre-fabricated construction techniques are another. And interoperable technology is a third case.

In terms of data center technologies, the case of Fidelity Investments is instructive. Looking for ways to cut costs and streamline operations following the 2008 financial crisis, Fidelity’s IT leaders took a fresh look at how they deployed and used servers. Their goal was to re-architect a solution that enabled speed, cost effectiveness and system security and reliability. They also were seeking more open engagement with external engineers.

Fidelity’s goals overlapped with those of the Open Compute Project (OCP), an open-source initiative launched internally at Facebook in 2001 when its team, faced with exponential growth, saw an urgent need to redesign their own data centers, but wanted to share their findings and collaborate with others. Fidelity signed on, and eventually contributed to community its design for an Open Bridge Rack, a convertible rack that helps enterprises migrate from proprietary to open and interoperable gear.

The results of Fidelity’s own migration, according to this OCP case study, included a 20 percent reduction in energy consumption and better pricing from vendors. That kind of outcome has helped drive interest in the OCP, which now includes more than 150 member companies and thousands of participants in eight working groups.

Vendors are responding to growing demand for components that can be swapped out as the need arises. At Data Center World in September, for example, Schneider Electric – a partner of Keystone NAP – revealed its intention to deploy a server chassis based on the Open Compute design. An OCP member for several years, Schneider told Data Center Knowledge that it has been working with hyper-scale data center operators in Asia and Russia on these concepts and is now ready to turn those solutions into products for the broader market.

For its part, Fidelity remains a strong OCP backer. In October, for instance, it hosted an OCP Engineering Workshop in Boston. While technical, these working sessions can be the occasion for related industry news. In this case, the event saw the release of an “Open Networking Integrator’s List,” from the University of New Hampshire InterOperability Laboratory (UNH-IOL). The list is a public directory of independently validated, interoperable combinations of networking products that conform to Open Compute specifications.

Single-system providers may yet make sense for some. For others, a list of interoperable networking gear could be another way to drive lower costs and greater flexibility.