The IT industry has had open source software to help fuel innovation and the time is now right to have open source for hardware too. That’s the message coming out of the Open Compute Summit in New York City today from multiple technology companies including Facebook, Intel, Dell and Red Hat.
Facebook initially announced the Open Compute Project in April of this year. Today, Facebook took the next step with the formal announcement of the creation of the Open Compute Foundation to help lead the effort forward.
“We’re really happy to announce that today, open source is not just something that you can use to describe software, but also to describe the hardware space as well,” Frank Frankovsky, Facebook’s director of hardware design said in the keynote session at the Open Compute Summit.
Frankovsky explained that the Foundation has developed a well thought out intellectual property regimen for contributions. As such, it is Frankovsky’s view that most suppliers will be comfortable contributing their intellectual property to the Open Compute Foundation.
“This is about community, not just about the people that can consume the technology, it’s also about the supply base,” Frankovsky said. “We are passionate about delivering tangible goods and we are publishing specs and source files.”
The Open Compute Foundation is being largely modeled after the Apache Software Foundation (ASF). The ASF is home to many successful open source projects including the Apache Web Server. The ASF is a multi-stakeholder model, where projects begin in an incubation phase before graduation to full project status.
“Everything we do is focused on a project and every project starts with the incubation committee,” Frankovsky said. “The incubation committee is made up of nine people that come from diverse backgrounds and every project will get voted on based on the merit of the project.”
Frankovsky added that even the projects that Facebook has created to date for Open Compute are currently in incubation mode.
At the top of the overall governance structure of the Open Compute Foundation is a five person board. The initial board will include, Andy Bechtolsheim from Arista Networks, Don Duet from Goldman Sachs, Frank Frankovsky from Facebook, Jason Waxman from Intel, and Mark Roenigk from Rackspace.
Among the initial efforts coming from Open Compute is the Open Rack project which is all about creating a new type of data center rack.
“Open Rack is a new platform to innovate on top off, it’s basically the rack becoming the server chassis,” Frankovsky said. “We envision this as blade servers done right, or blade servers done in open source.”
Frankovsky noted that with Open Rack the goal is about using the full rack as a chassis, to be able to give data centers a common way to deploy physical infrastructure within their environment.
“I think if we look at the pace of innovation that has been made in software and we compare it to hardware, it’s night and day,” Frankovsky said. “Let’s make it day and day, by applying open source principals to the hardware space and let’s build it together.”
Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.