Facebook Open Compute Project: This Time With Hardware, Facebook Tries to Change the Game Again

We know the role Facebook has played in shaping the way the internet works. We can share news and information with the click of a mouse. The company started by Mark Zuckerberg is popular, profitable, and even publically traded on the NASDAQ stock exchange. After revolutionizing social media, Facebook is setting its sights on changing the game in the world of computer infrastructure.

Facebook’s new goal is to challenge traditional computing powers like Cisco by creating more open networking switch hardware and server designs. The project is fittingly referred to as the Open Compute Project, and has been in development for around two years.

The Open Compute Project has some very ambitious goals. It is hoping to create leaner, cheaper servers, cheaper storage centers, more efficient data centers, open computer resources, and remote management tools. All of this will allow users to create and use their systems in the best way for them, without relying on the standard and relatively inflexible methods used in current systems.

One of the biggest aspects of the project is the idea of making these systems much more flexible by not having them pre-loaded with operating systems and other hardware. Therein lays the greatest threat to giants like Cisco, HP, Dell, and others. These industry titans ship their switches with software and operating systems already installed. And unlike in personal computers, there is little maneuverability with respect to these pre-loads. One of the greatest challenges that this lack of malleability presents is that the systems are often loaded down with software that is not needed by actual users, but is included off the shelf since these systems are designed to serve a wide variety of businesses and industries.

Facebook wants to ship its hardware without the pre-installed software and operating systems, allowing the customer extreme amounts of flexibility when it comes to what they load onto the system and how they utilize it. This would cut down on the clutter and allow the systems to run leaner and more efficiently, while also avoiding a number of bugs that come along with weighted-down platforms.

Not only would flexibility be built into the actual hardware, but there would also be the ability for IT professionals to manage and monitor their systems from a central server. As a result, changes and adjustments could be made with relative ease and speed, cutting down the time necessary for critical actions to take place and allowing the workplace to run more smoothly and with greater effectiveness.

In conjunction with this new focus on open-source hardware, Facebook has partnered with other companies like Intel and VMware to get the project underway in a collaborative manner. Smaller hardware companies that are looking to be competitive are already beginning the process of using open-source methods and could be shipping such products within a year. There are also some software firms beginning the process of developing products in the hope that the use of open-source switches expands to the point that they can release their software to a wide market.

If Facebook and their partners are successful, they could revolutionize computer infrastructure and leave current tech giants in the dust. If companies like Cisco and Microsoft don’t open up to the idea of open-source, their business could quickly dwindle in a market that a few major companies have had largely corned for a long time. It would be folly to say that this would be the end for any of these companies, but Facebook’s success could very well be at the great expense of some of them, especially if they resist the change.

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AJ Yohn

I am a Labor Studies and Employment Relations major at Penn State University. I am currently working in the real estate industry in my hometown, and am interested in topics across business and politics. I enjoy reading and playing video games.

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