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Taking The Long View On Open Computing

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COMMISSIONED Software changes like the weather, and hardware changes like the landscape; each affects the other over geologic timescales to create a new
climate. And this — largely — explains why it has taken so long for open-source computing to spread its tentacles into the hardware world.

With software, all you need is a couple of techies and some space on GitHub and you can change the world with a few hundred million mouse clicks. Hardware on the other hand is capital intensive — you have to buy parts and secure manufacturing for it. While it is easy enough to open up the design specs for any piece of hardware, it is not necessarily easy to get such hardware specs adopted by a large enough group of people for it to be manufactured at scale.

However, from slow beginnings, open computing has been steadily adopted by the hyperscalers and cloud builders. And now it is beginning the trickle down to smaller organizations.

In a world where hardware costs must be curtailed and compute, network, and storage efficiency is ever more important, it is reasonable to expect that sharing hardware designs and pooling manufacturing resources — at a scale that makes economic sense but does not require hyperscale — will happen. We believe, therefore, that open computing has already brought dramatic changes to the IT sector, and that these will only increase over time.

Open Hardware Is A Social Thing

The term 'open computing' is often used interchangeably with the Open Compute Project, created in 2011 by Facebook in conjunction with Intel, Rackspace Hosting and Goldman Sachs However, OCP is just one of four open-source computing initiatives in the market today. Let's see how they all got started.

More than a decade ago, Facebook growing by leaps and bounds, bought much of its server and storage equipment from Dell, and then eventually Dell and Facebook started to customize equipment for very specific workloads. By 2009, Facebook decided that the only way to improve IT efficiency was to design its own gear and the datacenters that house it. In January 2014, Microsoft joined the OCP, opening up its Open Cloud Server designs and…
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