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Why Open Compute Is a Win For Rackspace

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the more-space dept.

Cloud 46

1sockchuck writes "Cloud provider Rackspace is looking to the emerging open source hardware ecosystem to transform its data centers. The cloud provider spends $200 million a year on servers and storage, and sees the Open Compute Project as the key to reducing its costs on hardware design and operations. Rackspace is keen on the potential of the new Open Rack program, and its buying power is motivating HP and Dell to develop for the new standard — partly because Rackspace has also been talking with original design manufacturers like Quantra and Wistron. It's an early look at how open source hardware could have a virtuous impact on the server economy. 'I think the OEMs were not very interested (in Open Compute) initially,' said Rackspace COO Mark Roenigk. 'But in the last six months they have become really focused.'"

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Open source software makes sense. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40105075)

Open source hardware? Not so much. Trying to attach to / modify a buzz word to lift the share price a couple of bucks.

Re:Open source software makes sense. (2, Funny)

Tough Love (215404) | more than 2 years ago | (#40105159)

Open source hardware? Not so much. Trying to attach to / modify a buzz word to lift the share price a couple of bucks.

So... is there anything more to your content free argument or is that it?

Re:Open source software makes sense. (2)

Tough Love (215404) | more than 2 years ago | (#40105247)

Open source hardware? Not so much. Trying to attach to / modify a buzz word to lift the share price a couple of bucks.

So... is there anything more to your content free argument or is that it?

Open source hardware? Not so much. Trying to attach to / modify a buzz word to lift the share price a couple of bucks.

So... is there anything more to your content free argument or is that it?

Excuse me, but that was not off topic. People posting random FUD, typically with some agenda, have to be called out.

And for the record, my opinion is that open source hardware is just as valid as open source software, however the entrenched interests lined up against it are powerful and determined to undermine it. Even to the extent of trolling social sites like Slashdot.

Who are the entrenched interest in this case? (4, Informative)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | more than 2 years ago | (#40105997)

The rack frame itself is 24 inches in width, but, for some stupid reason, the rack was confined to 19 inches

Plus, all the components, like HD, mobo, and so on, had to had their own PSU

Air flow was seriously constricted, and heat built up

Now that they change the spec to 21 inches, and leave the power supply to the frame, just like what they were doing in the blade servers, much improvement will be had in this new design

As for the entrenched interest - HP and Dell are the two biggest OEM, and if they do not want to play, well, the Taiwanese ODMs will be more than happy to move in and fill the gap

And do not discount the biggest elephant in the room, Foxconn - if Foxconn decides to join in the game, the whole scene will change drastically

Re:Who are the entrenched interest in this case? (4, Informative)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#40106197)

It isn't really a question of whether the pacific rim ODMs will be manufacturing the gear. It's just a question of whether HP and Dell will be providing case badges and customer support or not...

Foxconn, among others, already handles a nontrivial amount of manufacturing for HP, not sure about Dell. The open question appears to be whether large operators like Rackspace will find it economically viable to handle system integration for themselves, in addition to operations, or whether existing systems integrators will continue to smooth over the rough edges of the ODM side and serve as the final vendor.

Re:Open source software makes sense. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40107051)

And for the record, your opinion is shit.

Re:Open source software makes sense. (3, Insightful)

tburkhol (121842) | more than 2 years ago | (#40107787)

And for the record, my opinion is that open source hardware is just as valid as open source software, however the entrenched interests lined up against it are powerful and determined to undermine it.

"Open source hardware" seems to mean "hardware standard not generated by a recognized professional organization." That is, the "closed source" hardware rack is an EIA standard from the 50s, not the kind of detailed drawing you could take to a local machine shop and say "give me 2 of these." Those industry groups have built-in bureaucracy and provide confidence that the next standard revision will be a small revision and completely compatible with all the preceding generations. I can buy rack mountable hardware today, and be extremely confident that it will plug into the rack I got in 1970. Standards produced by professional organizations like EIA, IEEE, and NEMA also have built-in credibility and implicit support of multiple industrial concerns. Of course, the bureaucracy and review means that they can be somewhat slow to accommodate changing demands, but that's kind of the point. "Open source" standards may be developed by professionals with support from multiple industry groups, too, but they may also be a bunch of high school kids in their parents' garage, and therefore require more review by whomever is going to use them. Especially if that user is considering building out a $100,000,000 production line. In either case, you still have your own manufacturing design work to do: the "open source" guidelines don't add any value.

Open source software, on the other hand, is a thing you can use directly, and (to the extent that it works) saves development time. For any sizeable project, it's easier to fix problems than to generate from scratch (unless its really bad), so open source software brings value

That said, a lot of professional organizations seem to use their standards as money-makers. The NEMA standard for welding electrode holders is $50. The ANSI standard for electrical meters is $150. The standards are developed at the cost of the member organizations, and I don't think royalties are paid to those organizations (who are generally the people paying the fees, anyway). It would be nice to see those organizations move toward zero cost electronic distribution of their standards, at least for individual use. One imagines that, as "O/S" hardware designs prove themselves, that they will get industry buy-in, and will get incorporated into formally blessed standards.

Re:Open source software makes sense. (1)

starfishsystems (834319) | more than 2 years ago | (#40110309)

"Open source hardware" seems to mean "hardware standard not generated by a recognized professional organization."

You have a valid point. The same thing exists in software, so that for example I can expect my FORTRAN 77 program to behave correctly on any compiler which is compliant with the standard. In time, maybe we'll have formal language standards for Python and Ruby. But there's no guarantee. Look at all the language forking that happened to Lisp. Now, was that good or bad? It all depends on your particular needs.

Languages and protocols are relatively simple to formalize, and they offer a high return on investment for doing so. But formalization is the senescent phase of any design effort. There are a lot of areas where things are changing much too fast for a standardization effort to be meaningful, to say nothing of the occasions where the standards process is subverted by manipulation of one kind or another, OOXML being one particularly blatant example.

In the software world, open source plays an intermediate role in providing a reusable, extensible, working implementation of a design idea. It's a natural fit to prevailing needs. PHP, for example, is a terrible language in terms of specification, yet it's abundantly successful. Why? Because nobody cares about the specification as long as the implementation is usable. And it is. It's usable at zero cost. No investment in special tooling is required.

Why shouldn't this same, intermediate, role for open source apply comparably for hardware? Of course there are instances when an entire industry has to agree on a specification in order for it to become viable, but there are also many cases where this would be overkill. There are tooling overheads in hardware, no question. But at a certain scale of operation they're not prohibitive.

Re:Open source software makes sense. (4, Insightful)

demachina (71715) | more than 2 years ago | (#40105191)

Open source hardware totally makes sense in the hobbyist world. Its going like gangbusters at places like Adafruit, Sparkfun, etc.

Remains to be seen how well it works at the big corporate level, but I could see real benefit to putting an end to duplicative squandering of R&D resources by a hundred different companies on same, but different, designs for motherboards, power supplies, routers, etc.

I kind of doubt its going to help Cisco, HP or Dell though. Its just going to further commoditize hardware and cut profit margins. Once you have solid designs big data centers like Amazon, Google, Facebook and Rackspace will, if they haven't already, farm out the manufacturing to lowest bidder in China and cut out the middlemen which would be HP and Dell.

I really don't see what value HP and Dell add to anything at this point and their stock prices seem to concur. Microsoft and Linux own the software, and hardware just isn't a place to differentiate much any more except on the very high end. Apple was smart enough to hold on to the software, hardware and ecosystem and they are reaping huge profits as a result.

HP is especially sad. Apotheker knew their hardware business was going no where but down, his board apparently completely supported him in spinning it off, if it wasn't the boards idea in the first place. Leo announced it, stock tanked, media and social networks skewered them, and the board scapegoated Leo and claimed it was all his fault. Sad.

Another plus with open hardware, coupled with open software, is it might slow down the NSA, FBI and/or Huawei from backdooring all our computing and network infrastructure.

Re:Open source software makes sense. (2, Interesting)

Tough Love (215404) | more than 2 years ago | (#40105355)

Remains to be seen how well it works at the big corporate leve

That does not remain to be seen, it already has been seen to work well in many cases. Here [fpgarelated.com] is just one of many credible links to substantiate that.

It is no longer a question of "if" but "how much". The only reason open source hardware is not exploding at the same rate as open source software is, the toolchains are more effectively locked down. That is partly because the open source software community has not fully focused on the problem yet, and partly because of arguably illegal barriers to entry erected by toolchain vendors. But of course, tearing those down is part of the fun.

Re:Open source software makes sense. (1)

demachina (71715) | more than 2 years ago | (#40105853)

Dont think your link says anything about it working at a big corporate level. It looks like a FPGA PCI design. The question got three answers, two people using it, don't know how big they are, and one guy hawking his implementation which he is charging for, for commercial use. I am guessing you are the guy trying to sell his commercial use version right?

Re:Open source software makes sense. (2)

Tough Love (215404) | more than 2 years ago | (#40105433)

It's about time old Wintel toady HP went down. HP needs to abandon its half baked delusions of conglomerate grandeur and get back to printers. And how about with ink not subject to DRM this time. I bought my last printer from Brother for that reason alone.

Dell... they should *be* the lowest bidder in China, if they can't figure out how to do that it's goodbye Dell. Another old Wintel toady who every 2 or 3 years waves the Linux flag just enough to sweeten their next secret deal with Microsoft.

Open source can't save these orgs, they have their heads too far up their proverbial butts.

Re:Open source software makes sense. (1)

codepunk (167897) | more than 2 years ago | (#40106161)

Except most consumers are thankfully moving past the perceived need of printers.

Re:Open source software makes sense. (1)

SurfsUp (11523) | more than 2 years ago | (#40106911)

Except most consumers are thankfully moving past the perceived need of printers.

A modern printer worthy of the name is also a scanner, photocopier and fax, I doubt that most consumers have moved past all of those.

Re:Open source software makes sense. (1)

sgtrock (191182) | more than 2 years ago | (#40106573)

Heck, I'd love to see HP go back to its real roots as an engineering driven firm. They got their start building the most rock solid test equipment on the planet, and they did it for a reasonable price, after all. Whatever happened to that kind of thinking?

Re:Open source software makes sense. (2)

SurfsUp (11523) | more than 2 years ago | (#40106913)

Heck, I'd love to see HP go back to its real roots as an engineering driven firm. They got their start building the most rock solid test equipment on the planet, and they did it for a reasonable price, after all. Whatever happened to that kind of thinking?

It got MBAed.

Re:Open source software makes sense. (1)

desertfool (21262) | more than 2 years ago | (#40107869)

Too bad my mod points expired. Being MBAed is what is bringing down many good companies.

Re:Open source software makes sense. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40105473)

Yeah, farm out your hardware. Good luck supporting it like HP, Dell or Cisco does.
 
Hardware is a lot more than a box in a rack.

Re:Open source software makes sense. (1)

cheesybagel (670288) | more than 2 years ago | (#40105603)

These sorts of corporations have their own in-house people working on maintenance.

Re:Open source software makes sense. (1)

demachina (71715) | more than 2 years ago | (#40105893)

And needless to say they can hire the same people HP and Dell hire. In fact as shitty a place as HP and Dell have been to work for most of the last decade, and as bad as their stock options have been, Rackspace, Amazon, Google and Facebook probably have an easier time hiring better people than HP or Dell.

Re:Open source software makes sense. (3, Insightful)

demachina (71715) | more than 2 years ago | (#40105817)

Actually they totally are boxes in a rack when you are talking purely about the hardware. Its reaching the point it is easier to swap it out than fix it unless its something easy to fix like a power supply, RAM or a disk. The companies with big data centers can field their own hardware and software people and probably get better service than A) paying Dell or HP and arm and a leg for support B) waiting for Dell or HP to send someone or or ship boxes back and forth.

I think one of the points of open computing is all the big centers are using the same hardware and the same drivers so they are sharing the burden of debugging the hardware and getting working drivers which are probably the biggest support burdens. Its almost got to be better to get rid of all the fragmentation in hardware designs and drivers and have everyone focus on a few of each and make them work really well. Hopefully open computing wont fragment as badly as Linux distributions and desktops have.

  If it fragments then, no I dont really see the point to it.

Re:Open source software makes sense. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40107539)

Funny how you make it seem like a pure hardware issue but than later touch on software that supports the hardware and the idea of fragmentation being a problem in Linuxland without ever getting my original point. It's almost like you're trying to dance around it and saying "Naw, it'll never happen here."
 
Think again.

Re:Open source software makes sense. (1)

demachina (71715) | more than 2 years ago | (#40111299)

You are seriously rambling now dude. If you want to restate your point clearly I will try to respond to it.

At this point the only point you seem to be making is you are some kind of hardware dude at Dell or HP and you are pissed at me for making light of the thing you do for a paycheck. If it helps, I am sorry you have to work at Dell or HP. Why dont you apply at Amazon or Google?

Re:Open source software makes sense. (1)

Funk_dat69 (215898) | more than 2 years ago | (#40109525)

Spoken like a true software guy (no offense, I'm one too). Where we differ, though, is that I don't believe the ideal is a sea of unreliable bottom barrel x86 with janitors swapping out a box when the little blinky light turns red. No fun!

Also:
What all this pie in the sky open source hardware stuff seems to ignore is the most expensive piece in the whole enchilada: the CPU. And that certainly won't be 'open sourced' any time soon. "So what", you say. For that one piece, we'll just rely on Intel because that's what everyone uses anyway.
Well then, Intel would have more power than ever and would, no doubt, more easily be able to command more of the profits per box and use that to stomp out any competition, and then yeah! CPU monopoly!
But Intel wouldn't ever abuse that power, they're engineers, right?

I'm all for compatibility, but sometimes "fragmentation" is often the result of a *healthy* market. More unique designs to solve a problem is a good thing.

Re:Open source software makes sense. (1)

demachina (71715) | more than 2 years ago | (#40111239)

Dont think Intel has any more or less power in any scenario involving Open Computing. There is still a company called AMD around, and I think some data centers are seriously exploring ARM to reduce power consumption which would totally divorce them from Intel. R&D and fabs for high end CPU's are staggeringly expensive so you are not likely to do one from scratch on a whim though there are certainly a lot of lower end open designs around. Xilinx has PowerPC designs for their FPGA's.

Totally dont get your point if you actually had a valid one in the first place.

Re:Open source software makes sense. (3, Interesting)

CohibaVancouver (864662) | more than 2 years ago | (#40106167)

Good luck supporting it like HP, Dell or Cisco does.

This.

A number of years ago I was involved in supporting some hardware in a ski resort a few hours outside of Denver. One snowy night a piece of gear failed and the service contract said 'replace it in three hours.' Sure enough, 2.5 hours later headlights appeared on the snowy road as the tech showed up with the replacement part, which he installed.

Re:Open source software makes sense. (2)

Johnny Mnemonic (176043) | more than 2 years ago | (#40106861)


supporting some hardware

OCP isn't about supporting some hardware. It's about building servers when you already have 24/7 hardware support and all of the parts on site already, and own the software stack so there's no value add there.

If you're not in the space where you do everything yourself already, then OCP isn't for you.

Re:Open source software makes sense. (1)

Ramley (1168049) | more than 2 years ago | (#40105945)

Open source hardware totally makes sense in the hobbyist world. Its going like gangbusters at places like Adafruit, Sparkfun, etc.

Remains to be seen how well it works at the big corporate level, ...

I remember the days of Slackware, and trying to convince the boss why Linux was a good solution to a lot of our ISP-related server software issues. This sounds very familiar. I hope Open Compute has the same type of success as Linux.

$200,000,000 on hardware (1)

pubwvj (1045960) | more than 2 years ago | (#40105123)

"$200,000,000 on hardware"

Wow!

Gasp.

Money (1)

amiga3D (567632) | more than 2 years ago | (#40105137)

Funny how money makes people focus.

i should have patented the Cloud. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40105197)

Instead I went all in on Segway.

Curse you Steve Jobs

Buzz word filled press release (1, Insightful)

GeneralTurgidson (2464452) | more than 2 years ago | (#40105233)

This article is garbage. Slashvertisement for rack space?

Re:Buzz word filled press release (-1, Troll)

Tough Love (215404) | more than 2 years ago | (#40105361)

Speak for yourself, Mr astroturfer.

Re:Buzz word filled press release (1)

game kid (805301) | more than 2 years ago | (#40105457)

Actually I agree with grandparent; summary definitely reads like an ad. Rackspace employees do occasionally post on Slashdot, special user logo and all.

Re:Buzz word filled press release (0)

SurfsUp (11523) | more than 2 years ago | (#40106887)

You guys are getting your story confused. One says the story is trash, the other says the summary is trash, a third (me) actually read the article and found it neither biased nor irrelevant.

Werp! Werp! Bullshit alert! Bullshit alert! Werp! (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 2 years ago | (#40107085)

I read as far as "open source hardware" and concluded it wasn't worth going any further.

Re:Buzz word filled press release (1)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 2 years ago | (#40107343)

Well I read it and it sounded like what you would be handed during your average corp powerpoint. heavy on buzzword, light on actual detail, in fact the only real "advantage' that i could gather from TFA is that they made the racks two inches wider...ummm...okay? that still really doesn't explain why designing and building your own hardware is gonna be better than COTS that has the economies of scale that Intel and AMD have in the server arena.

TFA is really light on any meat and explanations on how this approach gives a better ROI than simply having the companies bid for the work, so I'm gonna have to go with the other guy and say its a slashadvert.

Im sold (2)

digitaltraveller (167469) | more than 2 years ago | (#40105787)

Obvious benefit. Where do I buy opencompute servers from? Does anyone sell them yet? I'm outfitting a dc server cabinet in the near future.

open standards for hardware (5, Informative)

dhammabum (190105) | more than 2 years ago | (#40105789)

They have some really good ideas for rack/server design - eg they reckon they are getting 34% power saving by supplying 12V DC to buses in the racks so servers don't need individual power supplies and with improved cooling paths.

Manufacturers won't standardise unless they are pushed like rackspace is doing. This is a big advance.

Re:open standards for hardware (1)

Bengie (1121981) | more than 2 years ago | (#40108063)

I would love to have a 12v server. UPS is just an individual battery and/or a battery bank.

Re:open standards for hardware (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40109453)

Yet we already have a working DC standard (48v) that's used by the Telcoms in the same damn racks. Much better distribution, lots of safety equipment, known issues along with debugged designs. The only thing that a board needs, is a stepdown method that accepts 48v - they've already got the regulation for 5/3.3/1.5 and such so why not simply expend the effort needed to design a functional stepdown PSU connection that takes 48v input and converts to the required 12/5.5/3.3/1.5 and such?

"Open Rack" (5, Funny)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 2 years ago | (#40105815)

Why is it so many open source projects sound like names for run down strip clubs?

Re:"Open Rack" (1, Funny)

CohibaVancouver (864662) | more than 2 years ago | (#40106189)

/. should just come clean and rename "Overrated" to "I disagree"

But they already have 'troll' and 'flamebait' for 'I disagree.'

Re:"Open Rack" (2)

ebuck (585470) | more than 2 years ago | (#40106817)

/. should just come clean and rename "Overrated" to "I disagree"

But they already have 'troll' and 'flamebait' for 'I disagree.'

For some, they can never disagree enough. I'm surprised there arent more tags to say "You're wrong!"

Re:"Open Rack" (1)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 2 years ago | (#40107627)

Yeah, but those can be meta-modded so they are rarely used to say "I disagree"
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