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Open Compute: Collaborating For Hardware Innovation

There are some in the hardware community that question the value of the Open Compute Project and believe that it represents a “race to the bottom” from a hardware design standpoint. These people seem to feel that any distinctive, interesting or innovative design principles will be pushed away due to competitive risks favoring something that solves for only the most basic or rudimentary requirements. I completely disagree with this sentiment.

We believe that working together in the open is the best way to solve a complex set of problems. We do not want to solve things repeatedly on multiple overlapping fronts. We favor working collaboratively to solve a challenge one time, in the most effective manner possible. New pursuits should deliver value in new areas or should distinctively improve existing solutions. Those of us working on Open Compute would assert that this is the best way to innovate on these hardware platforms.

An example of this is a partner of ours who has a very effective fabric interconnect solution, but does not engineer a power supply; they simply consume an off-the-shelf power supply and have integrated it into their product. They have some concerns about how to optimize or tune that power supply subsystem, but their focus on the fabric is what really distinguishes them.

Our belief is that Open Compute can fill the gap where such design problems exist. In the example above, the project encourages work on the power supply problem to proceed through the community with specialists who really distinguish themselves in that arena, while the partner with interconnectivity fabric expertise can acutely focus on its own area of prowess. Open Compute keeps one from working in a single silo across the entire stack, and makes development more like a pyramid where work builds upon on a strong and open base and provides opportunities for more focused and distinctive innovation at the pinnacle.

About the Author

This is a post written and contributed by Joel Wineland.

Joel Wineland is a principal engineer for Rackpace. He is responsible for evaluation and development of hardware platforms and server strategy. Joel represents Rackspace in the Open Compute Project as a member of the incubation committee. When not punching keys, Joel is likely at the park with his three children or splintering wood on his table saw.


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