In addition, AMD is planning to contribute to the Open Compute Project with a new micro-server design that utilizes the Opteron A-series, along with other architecture specifications for motherboards that Facebook helped developed called “Group Hug,” an agnostic server board design that can support traditional x86 processors, as well as ARM chips.
Kudos to Facebook as they still continue support for the Open Compute project which they spearheaded some years back to encourage more widespread expertise and knowledge of large scale data centers. This new charge is to allow a pick-and-choose, best of breed kind of design whereby a CPU is not a fixed quantity but can be chosen or changed like a hard drive or RAM module. And with the motherboard firmware remaining more or less consistent regardless of the CPU chosen. This would allow mass customization based solely on the best CPU for a given job (HTTP, DNS, Compute, Storage, etc). And the spare capacity might be allowed to erode a little so that any general CPU could be somewhat more aggressively scheduled while some of it’s former, less efficient services could be migrated to more specialist mobile CPUs on another cluster. Each CPU doing the set of protocols, services it inherently does best. This flies further in the face of always choosing general compute style CPUs and letting the software do most of the heavy lifting once the programming is completed.
Codenamed “Knox,” Facebook’s storage prototype holds 30 hard drives in two separate trays, and it fits into a nearly 8-foot-tall data center rack, also designed by Facebook.The trick is that even if Knox sits at the top of the rack — above your head — you can easily add and remove drives. You can slide each tray out of the the rack, and then, as if it were a laptop display, you can rotate the tray downwards, so that you’re staring straight into those 15 drives.
Nice article around Facebook’s own data center design and engineering efforts. I think their approach is going to advance the state of the art way more than Apple/Google/Amazon’s own protected and secretive data center efforts. Although they have money and resources to plow into custom engineered bits for their data centers, Facebook can at least show off what its learned in the time that it has scaled up to a huge number of daily users. Not the least of which is expressed best by their hard drive rack design, a tool-less masterpiece.
This article emphasizes the physical aspects of the racks in which the hard drives are kept. It’s a tool-less design not unlike what I talked about in this article from a month ago. HP has adopted a tool-less design for its all-in-one (AIO) Engineering Workstation, see Introducing the HP Z1 Workstation. The video link will demonstrate the idea of a tool-less design for what is arguably not the easiest device to design without the use of proprietary connectors, fasteners, etc. I use my personal experience of attempting to upgrade my 27″ iMac as the foil for what is presented in the HP promo video. If Apple adopted a tool-less design for its iMacs there’s no telling what kind of aftermarket might spring up for the hobbyist or even the casually interested Mac owners.
I don’t know how much of Facebook’s decisions regarding their data center designs is driven by the tool-less methodology. But I can honestly say that any large outfit like Facebook and HP attempting to go tool-less in some ways is a step in the right direction. Comapnies like O’Reilly’s Make: magazine and iFixit.org are readily providing path for anyone willing to put in the work to learn how to fix the things they own. Also throw into that mix less technology and more Home Maintenance style outfits like Repair Clinic, while not as sexy technologically, I can vouch for their ability to teach me how to fix a fan in my fridge.
Borrowing the phrase, “If you can’t fix it, you don’t own it” let me say I wholeheartedly agree. And also borrowing from the old Apple commercial, Here’s to the crazy ones because they change things. They have no respect for the status quo, so lots stop throwing away those devices, appliances, automobiles and let’s start first by fixing some things.
Now, Facebook has provided a new option for these big name Wall Street outfits. But Krey also says that even among traditional companies who can probably benefit from this new breed of hardware, the project isn’t always met with open arms. “These guys have done things the same way for a long time,” he tells Wired.
Interesting article further telling the story of Facebook’s Open Compute project. This part of the story concentrates on the mass storage needs of the social media company. Which means Wall Street data center designer/builders aren’t as enthusiastic about Open Compute as one might think. The old school Wall Streeters have been doing things the same way as Peter Krey says for a very long time. But that gets to the heart of the issue, what the members of the Open Compute project hope to accomplish. Rack Space AND Goldman Sachs are members, both contributing and getting pointers from one another. Rack Space is even beginning to virtualize equipment down to the functional level replacing motherboards with a Virtual I/O service. That would allow components to be ganged up together based on the frequency of their replacement and maintenance. According to the article, CPUs could be in one rack cabinet, DRAM in another, Disks in yet another (which is already the case now with storage area networks).
The newest item to come into the Open Compute circus tent is storage. Up until now that’s been left to Value Added Resellers (VARs) to provide. So different brand loyalties and technologies still hold sway for many Data Center shops including Open Compute. Now Facebook is redesigning the disk storage rack to create a totally tool-less design. No screws, no drive carriers, just a drive and a latch and that is it. I looked further into this tool-less phenomenon and found an interesting video at HP
Having recently purchased a similarly sized iMac 27″ and upgrading it by adding a single SSD drive into the case, I can tell you this HP Z1 demonstrates in every way possible the miracle of toolless designs. I was bowled over and remember back to some of my memories of different Dell tower designs over the years (some with more toolless awareness than others). If a toolless future is inevitable I say bring it on. And if Facebook ushers in the era of toolless Storage Racks as a central design tenet of Open Compute so much the better.