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March 12th, 2015

OCP Summit: Passing the Open Hardware Tipping Point

In the FOSS realm, we’re all about Free/Open Source Software. But what about the hardware on which it runs?

For the last four years, the Open Compute Project has had that covered. Just as Linux and BSD have blazed a trail in the open source side of things for software, OCP seeks to open hardware the same way, providing standards for open hardware and allowing for hardware makers to use them in creating networking and server works in a way that benefits all.

This week, the OCP held their summit in downtown San Jose — a two-day event which captured the latest in developments in the open hardware field — and the McEnery Convention Center was abuzz with activity.

OCP branded water

It was a warm week in San Jose, and the Open Compute Project was ready with personalized bottles of water (photo: Larry Cafiero)

With nearly 50 hardware vendors exhibiting and with over 30 sessions over two days — not to mention a wide range of keynotes including one from Canonical’s Mark Shuttleworth and Rackspace’s Aaron Sullivan — nearly 3,000 attendees took in the event on an usually warm March week in the capital of the Silicon Valley.

“We have passed the tipping point where OCP gear is no longer an experiment,” said Frank Frankovsky, chairman and president of the Open Compute Project Foundation. “Major companies and vendors have pivoted from proprietary interests and are working together to bring open datacenter technologies to market. We saw the open source model work for software, and now we know it can be done with hardware.”

But wait, there’s more. Frankovsky continues: “Companies can openly collaborate and come out ahead. There is still work to be done in enabling adoption, but the momentum we’ve built on community and technology is undeniable.”

A few developments announced at the Open Compute Project Summit 2015:

HP Cloudline: HP announced Tuesday a new portfolio designed specifically for the needs of service providers to create differentiated services, increase speed and agility, and drive business growth. As part of this announcement, HP introduced HP Cloudline, a new family of compute platforms that enable service providers running hyperscale IT architectures to maximize data center efficiency and increase cloud service agility. With HP Cloudline, HP is further extending its open infrastructure vision from cloud and network switches to include servers. Open solutions accelerate innovation and provide service providers with the flexibility required for rapid growth.

Broadcom: Broadcom announced the availability of the Broadcom Open Network Switch Library (OpenNSL), a new software platform for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), independent software vendors (ISVs) and network operators. OpenNSL is a software interface with a set of APIs that enable the development of new applications on top of Broadcom StrataXGS switches, giving customers the flexibility to tailor their network equipment and meet their unique infrastructure requirements.

Cumulus:: Cumulus Networks announced today that they contributed the “ACPI Platform Description” or APD to OCP as a new industry standard for networking hardware and operating system integration. They’ve extended ACPI, broadly used with servers and PCs, for use with bare metal switches.

Heady stuff.

Amber Graner at OCP

Open Hardware 101: The OCP’s Amber Graner gives a session explaining the inner workings of the organization. (Photo: Larry Cafiero)

But hardware makers were not the only ones on the exhibit floor and their executives were not the only ones in the speaker venues.

Goldman Sachs — yep, the investment firm — is one of the founding companies in the OCP, and they had two speakers at the summit. Goldman contributes specifications, software and features to help things like power savings, which they share with the OCP to benefit other hardware makers. The financial giant had two speakers, one of which was Don Duet, the managing director co-head technology at Goldman, who is also on the OCP Board of Directors.

While the open hardware movement started with huge data centers like Facebook that have the scale and expertise to buy hardware directly from manufacturers and adapt their own software to meet their needs, the trend now is toward an open hardware standard that benefits everyone who chooses to participate. With that, the world of open hardware has become the next frontier, and the OCP is at the forefront of this new movement.

Upcoming next Wednesday is a Q-and-A interview with the Open Compute Project CEO Corey Bell.

Larry Cafiero, a.k.a. Larry the Free Software Guy, is a journalist and a Free/Open Source Software advocate. He is involved in several FOSS projects and serves as the publicity chair for the Southern California Linux Expo. Follow him on Twitter: @lcafiero

1 comment to OCP Summit: Passing the Open Hardware Tipping Point

  • LinuxUser42

    I was surprised when you say open hardware you didn’t cover things like the Purism Libre laptop or the Novenna open laptop.

    Also when it comes to hardware, then you might consider a story on subjects like the open bios project, etc.