Facebook started the Open Compute Project with the goals of increasing data center efficiency and lowering operating costs. While the project has attracted collaboration from some of the largest enterprises, the project's goals can benefit small and medium businesses (SMB) as much as large corporations.

With Open Compute, hardware design and manageability is open sourced with the aim of reducing power consumption, cost and size of data center hardware by building custom hardware that includes the best and only the necessary components for specific applications.

This is something that large data centers have done for some time, but is not something that SMBs could afford to do. However, these hardware specifications are donated to the Open Compute Project for others to use.

This open sourcing of hardware offers SMBs a hardware and software in a market place that has in recent times been dominated by a small number of big players.

Big boys on board

The Open Compute Project includes some of the biggest names in the IT industry, including Facebook, Goldman Sachs, Microsoft, Rackspace and others. The input these firms have into the Open Compute Project results in products that they deploy within their own infrastructures.

The scale at which these companies deploy hardware means operating expense optimisation is a key goal. SMBs are acutely aware of this given fierce market competition.

With major industry players working together to create a specification, SMBs are given the choice of multiple vendors' Open Compute products and the knowledge that they can be plugged into the same infrastructure and perform as expected.

For example, the AMD Open 3.0 platform – developed to bring up to 32 cores in two sockets for compute intensive workloads such as virtualisation, relational databases and analytics – is manufactured by both Quanta and Tyan and has been integrated by Avnet and Penguin Computing, providing the customer with choices throughout the product channel.

The advantages of the Open Compute Project are not restricted to compute servers. The project has specifications for network switches, rack designs and, perhaps most importantly, management software.

Consolidating systems

Hardware management has traditionally been a vendor-controlled silo, in which software is tied to a specific hardware vendor. The Open Compute Hardware Management specification means SMBs can use the same management software on multiple vendors' hardware.

This allows staff to be trained on a single software suite based on an open industry standard and decrease the disparate management suites that add cost to an SMB's bottom line.

For SMBs, managing their IT infrastructure is a significant investment both in capital and human resources. However, as more businesses embrace Open Compute based infrastructure, support engineers with knowledge of the platform can easily transfer their skills between firms, shortening the time taken for new support staff to get up to speed on an SMB's infrastructure.

Open Compute platforms such as AMD's Open 3.0 offer SMBs the opportunity to reap the benefits of the buying power of large Internet service providers such as Facebook and Rackspace.

SMBs can leverage this "open market" to decrease capital expenditure and operating costs, while enjoying best of breed hardware from the industry's leading manufacturers.

  • Lawrence Latif is technical communications manager at AMD. He has extensive experience of enterprise IT, networking, system administration, software infrastructure and data analytics.