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Reflecting On The Open Compute Summit

I sit in a hotel room in Taipei overlooking foreign streets replete with distinctive and unusual attributes. I have eaten my initiate morsel of stinky tofu, shot arrows five feet or six feet into balloons at a carnival venue and enjoyed much delicious fare – stinky tofu being a notable exception! I have also been blessed with the attentions of some of the most amicable and hospitable people I have encountered in my career. True, it is not singularly Open Compute which has asserted this set of circumstances, but this is perhaps one of the best opportunities for me to provide examples of the tenets of this project in action in a fundamental and tangible manner.

I have to drop back a few weeks to the OCP Summit to best set the scene for these reflections. In this pursuit, I’ll give a quick run-down of some of the memorable and foundational elements shaping my present perspective. Here, I should also say that while I am not hoping to provide a comprehensive or journalistically sound portrayal, I can catalog a few first hand experiences that distinguished the event and many subsequent engagements for me.

During summit registration on May 2nd I was able to greet many colleagues and counterparts from throughout the world in the newly constructed lobby and museum area of our San Antonio home, dubbed The Castle. There was plenty of very positive feedback on our facility and visitors had the chance to absorb some of the cultural accouterments that exemplify the character of Rackers (Rackspace employees). Even now, these thoughts strike me with feelings of pride. As a Racker, such feelings are generally not anomalous, but the opportunity to receive the compliments and positive commentary of so many others resonates still with a memorable frequency for me.

During the keynote session that followed registration, Frank Frankovsky introduced the why, what and how of Open Compute. His presentation was excellent. In reference to his portrayal of the functional and philosophical tenets of OCP I am in fact hesitant to say “that was exactly what I’ve been saying,” but I was struck repeatedly by this point. He emphasized and well expressed our commitment to collaboration, openness, innovation and efficiency and set the scene for the introduction of new partnerships and projects.

Others, including Rackspace President Lew Moorman, had the chance to express their perspectives and commitment to the project, and new partnerships and contributions were announced. Here I was struck with an odd intermingling of pride and humility. We are making real progress on these projects. Whether we look to Open Rack, Open Vault, Hardware Management, Motherboard design or Virtual IO, there are plenty of people thankfully more talented than me doing really amazing work. We got to show the world the Open Rack R2D2-sized prototype, and here I can say that the efforts of Facebook mechanical engineers like Jon Ehlen clearly illustrate the statements Frank asserted concerning the complexity of solving problems in an elegant and vanity free fashion. I’ll do later posts with more detail on other projects including Open Rack, but let it suffice to say that production solutions of broad and impactful applicability are near.

We rounded out the remainder of the first and the majority of the second and final days with collaborative design sessions. I’ll talk more about the dynamics and mechanics of these as I survey the individual projects in detail, but the Virtual IO sessions led by my friend and long time co-Racker James Hesketh precipitated plenty of debate and positive interaction. (I joined these sessions as stenographer, taking embarrassing notes with comments including “guy in grey shirt says.” I’ll apologize to those of you I didn’t recognize. I’m looking forward to  grabbing a beer with each of you as we get you in, introduced and involved – “guy in grey shirt” definitely included).

Now I realize that I’ve gotten long winded and avoided expressing much about my new friends and experiences here in Taiwan. Again, more to come on this topic, but I learned a lot. People are changing the way they do business and while OCP is clearly not solely responsible, it plugs in to this reformulating landscape with an opportunistic and aligned synergy. To me, this is a synergy of the moment and is as much about OCP being fortuitously positioned in time among other developments as it is about OCP reshaping or defining anything. Maybe that really is the why and how of what will be our success. No one thing will change the world, the world simply changes. What we need are catalysts to shape and guide the change in a positive fashion.  My realization is that catalytic strategies and individuals are far ranging, present and accounted for. I now have a wholly new aspirational perspective on the pace, scope and opportunity that is within reach.

The last thing I have time to say is this: You can say we here too. Why would you not want to? All you have to do is hold up your hand and say “I like that,” or “Hey moron this would better” or anything at all. It’s not that we can’t solve problems by ourselves, it’s that we don’t want to.

I am sitting here in the Westin Taipei watching taxis among scooters among foreign signs and talking to you.

Join us.

www.opencompute.org – proudly hosted by Rackspace

For more on the Open Compute Summit, heck out this video montage capturing A Day In The Life at the Open Compute Summit 2012.

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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