By Noel Randewich
SAN JOSE, Calif. Jan 28 Facebook Inc's
executive in charge of revolutionizing data centers on Tuesday
lauded low-energy server technology that is expected to compete
against heavyweight Intel Corp.
The social networking firm's three-year push to help
companies design better data center gear is gaining momentum and
paying off with a range of cost-saving improvements, Open
Compute Project head Frank Frankovsky told an industry
He pointed to plans by some companies to launch server chips
based on low-power technology licensed from ARM Holdings
, whose technology is widely used in smartphones.
"It might be coming to fruition about six months after the
most optimistic among us thought, but we are absolutely going to
see a much more rich ecosystem in CPU choice as we move through
2014 and into 2015," said Frankovsky.
Servers are the brains and guts of online networks, handling
computations and managing tasks.
Intel dominates the server market with its powerful Xeon
processors and stands to lose if server chips based on a rival
architecture catch on. It has launched its own low-power chips
in anticipation of a move toward microservers by major Internet
players like Facebook and Google.
For some kinds of data-center workloads, several chips
drawing minimal amounts of electricity and working together can
work more efficiently than one of Intel's brawny server chips,
proponents of microservers say.
Struggling with a shrinking PC industry, chipmaker Advanced
Micro Devices has been developing and testing ARM-based
chips for servers. Sunnyvale, California-based Applied Micro
Circuits is also launching its own ARM-based server
processors. Both companies said they would soon start sampling
their chips with customers.
With off-the-shelf data center products falling behind
Facebook's growing technical requirements, the world's top
social media network in 2011 launched the Open Compute Project
to push major technology companies to design and build hardware
better-suited to running its massive Internet services.
Over the past three years, efforts by Facebook to make its
infrastructure more efficient have saved the company over $1.2
billion, said Jay Parikh, vice president of infrastructure.
Its collaborative approach, with Facebook sharing its data
center standards and asking partners to improve on them, is
inspired by open source software projects like Linux, in which
developers from different companies contribute and share
Microsoft Corp, a New Open Compute member but a
technology heavyweight not traditionally known for sharing its
expertise, has contributed cloud-server specifications that it
says significantly reduce costs, as well as source code.
Since it started, the project has focused on improved
standards for information storage, power supply, hardware racks
and other data-center components.
While the Open Compute Project's new standards and products
have benefited Facebook, it is not clear how much they are
helping smaller companies with different, less-demanding
data-center requirements, said Patrick Moorhead, an analyst at
Moor Insights and Strategy, who was at Tuesday's event.
"After three years ... you would expect many, many
enterprises to get up and talk about how they've purchased
OCP-compliant hardware, but that's not really happening,"