By L.A. Lorek

Data centers gobble up energy.
But some of the smartest minds in the information technology industry want to change that.
They are meeting in San Antonio today and tomorrow to rethink the old ways of putting together servers, power and cooling units and the rest of the guts of data centers to save energy and increase efficiency.
It’s called the Open Compute Project, launched last April by Facebook with the goal of creating the most efficient computer hardware and software for data centers. Of course not everyone has joined the project. Google, Microsoft and Amazon are not on board. But lots of major players like Facebook and Rackspace are.
And in just a year, the Open Compute Project has made data centers 38 percent more efficient to run and 24 percent less expensive to build, according to the organization. The group comes up with new hardware and software standards and then they share those with everyone else. The entire data center industry benefits from the open collaborative work of the best engineers in a variety of companies.
About 500 data center leaders from Intel, AMD, Hewlett Packard, Dell, Facebook, Rackspace and more met today at Rackspace’s headquarters in San Antonio for the third summit designed to hammer out designs and think up projects to improve the way data centers operate.

Frank Frankovsky with Facebook

Wednesday morning, Frank Frankovsky, vice president of hardware design and supply chain at Facebook, gave the keynote address on the progress made in the last year.
First off, Frankovsky showed a slide listing dozens of new companies that have joined the movement including HP, AMD, Fidelity, Quanta, Tencent,, VMware, HP and others. Frankovsky wrote a blog post on May 2 providing a full list of new members and detailing all the accomplishments in the past year.
And later on the stage, executives from HP and Dell both unveiled their newly redesigned servers dubbed Project Coyote and Project Zeus respectively.
The objectives of the Open Compute Project are scale, value, simplicity, sustainability and openness, Frankovsky said. That involves rethinking the entire data center from the racks that house the servers to the electrical systems that connect them together.
“We’re ditching the 19 inch rack design,” he said.
A big part of that is creating new 21-inch width standard for racks inside data centers to replace the outdated 19-inch racks, which date back to the 1950s, Frankovsky said.
“We want people to differentiate less and innovate more,” he said.
Following Frankovsky, Glenn Keels, HP, director of marketing of its hyperscale business unit, said the reason HP joined the Open Compute Project was because “leaders do not sit on their laurels” and “leaders develop standards.” HP is number one or number two in the data center markets it serves, Keels said. HP powers some of the largest cloud data centers in the world including Facebook, he said.
The cloud market is small but growing exponentially between now and 2020, Keels said.
“HP has begun to think differently,” Keels said. HP is transforming servers and changing the experience with projects like moonshot, voyager and odyssey aimed at improving efficiencies in the data center, Keels said.
“Open Compute Project is the most robust group of problem solvers focused on the data center space and moving from technology and form factors of 1995 to today to reclaim stranded time, space and power,” Keels said.
“We have to reinvent ourselves every time and Open Compute is a fantastic forum for us to do that,” Keels said. “Standardization has the ability to unlock innovation.”
Keels unveiled HP’s Coyote open rack standard at the conference.
Then Forrest Norrod, vice president and general manager of Dell’s Data Center Solutions Group, showed off Dell’s new server and storage designs that meet the Open Rack specifications.
“Dell is deeply rooted in our support for open alliances,” Norrod said. “It’s in our DNA…We are very active in our support for open source.”
Rackspace is also active in the open source movement and in creating less expensive and more efficient data centers. Late Wednesday morning, Mark Roenigk, Rackspace’s chief operating officer, detailed the company’s plans in an interview.
Rackspace has nine data centers globally including two in the United Kingdom and one in Hong Kong. Its U.S. data centers are in Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth and the Washington, D.C. area,.
“We shuttered two in San Antonio in the last six months due to inefficiencies,” Roenigk said. “There’s a great example of how quickly this technology is moving.”
In the last two years, Rackspace has seen a 22 percent efficiency improvement in its data centers, Roenigk said.
Rackspace plans to leverage the Open Compute Project designs for computer servers, storage, network and utilities in its next generation data center, which it plans soon, Roenigk said.
Overall, Rackspace has 80,000 servers online serving 172,000 customers today.
“We want to be influential in the design of the hardware,” Roenigk said.
So Rackspace works closely with original equipment makers like HP and Dell, he said.
“Most recently we’ve increased the density of a rack from 7 kilowatts to 18 kilowatts a rack providing more computing power coming out of a smaller footprint,” Roenigk said. “That means less cost which is passed on to our customers.”
Sustainability and saving energy is a core covenant of the Open Computer Project, Roenigk said.
“We were recently judged by Greenpeace in a report “How Clean Is Your Cloud,” Roenigk said. “We’re pleased that even though we’re a small player in the market, we’re in the middle of the pack.”
“We think we can be a big influencer in data center efficiency and the power used to power those data centers,” Roenigk said.
Those decisions on being green stem from the sources that Rackspace uses to power its data centers. That’s why it has bypassed states, which provide cheap power from coal sources in favor of hydro electric, wind and natural gas sources.
“We’re really about serving customers,” Roenigk said. “They pull us and push us in different directions all the time.”
Two years ago, only one in 25 customers ever brought up the subject of sustainability when talking about hosting, Roenigk said.
“Today it is more like six or seven in ten,” he said. “It is now a real part of the sourcing and procurement process.”
On Thursday, engineers attending the summit will hammer out their ideas in special sessions that go very, very deep, Roenigk said. The Open Compute Project has a formal process for people to bring forth their ideas, he said. The board decides which projects are going to drive the most value to the open source community. Then the engineers meet once or several times a week. When they are done, they publish their design specifications to members of the Open Compute Project to use, Roenigk said.
“Linux took 20 years to become a standard,” Roenigk said. “We will do what Linux did in 20 years in five years or less.”

The following video is from Rackspace and explains its role in the Open Compute Project.

Rackspace is a sponsor of Silicon Hills News