Facebook’s open compute project shifts its focus toward the network

Facebook Open Compute Project

From Android to Firefox to Twitter and everything in between, open source is all the rage in the tech world. Now, thanks to the world’s largest social media network, open source might begin to revolutionize a more focused sector of that world: the data center.

Facebook’s Open Compute Project started a few years ago when a team of its engineers were charged with the task of scaling the company’s computing infrastructure with an eye toward efficiency, energy reduction and, of course, cost savings. Because the engineers were allowed to build from the ground up, they were able to construct a fully customized data center.

The results? After building the data center in Prineville, Oregon, Facebook realized a 38 percent reduction in energy usage resulted in a 24 percent reduction in operating expenses.

Once those results were known, Facebook did the noble thing: released their data center specifications to the public so that anyone who wanted to study them – or even build their own data center – could leverage that material and start digging.

Coming Down the Pike

Why stop at open source data center infrastructure? They’re not.

Since the Open Compute Project’s inception, more than 150 members have climbed aboard. With five summits under their belt, the project is moving on to the task of figuring out how to optimize other aspects of the tech sector as well. Now, sights are set on bringing open source philosophies to networking.

In June, Open Compute announced “Wedge” and “FBOSS,” billed as “the next steps toward a disaggregated network.”

“We’re big believers in the value of disaggregation – of breaking down traditional data center technologies into their core components so we can build new systems that are more flexible, more scalable, and more efficient,” two Facebook engineers posted on the company’s blog. “This approach has guided Facebook from the beginning, as we’ve grown and expanded our infrastructure to connect more than 1.28 billion people around the world.”

By breaking down the equipment – separating hardware and software – engineers are able to specifically target individual aspects of the network and attack them with a one-at-a-time approach.

Why Open Source Makes Sense

Listening to different perspectives is always a good thing, even in the world of coding. By keeping all of that work in-house, organizations risk taking on a groupthink mentality and in some cases they might follow ideas that aren’t worthy of merit.

But by opening the doors to a community of vibrant programmers – the kind of setting in which you could imagine everyone relaxing on patio furniture, engaged in stimulating discussion, so to speak – who embrace the open source philosophy, more ideas will be bounced around with more people. The end result? A product that is truly greater than the sum of its parts.

The very fact that Facebook released its data center specifications to the public shows that the company understands that there’s a very real possibility that those plans can be improved upon even more. The more resources that can be leveraged to help solve a problem or project, the better.

First the data center, now the network. After that, the sky’s the limit.

Computer Servers” image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Written by Alicia Lawrence

Alicia is a content coordinator for a tech company. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, cooking healthy meals, and blogging about health, tech and communication.
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