The Open Compute Project is a collective effort by Facebook and a number of players in the datacenter industry to bring lessons learned from the social media giant’s giant IT deployment to the rest of the world.
Datacenters account for 3% of global electricity consumption – about the same as all of Switzerland or the Czech Republic — according to people I met at the recent Open Compute Summit in San Jose.
With increasing mobility at the edge of the cloud and vast new dataflows being predicted with the growth of the Internet of Things (and The Coming Age of Many Zettabytes) in the near future, the carbon footprint of the datacenter industry has become an important issue.
Jay Parikh, VP of Engineering at Facebook, Canonical CEO and sometime astronaut Mark Shuttleworth, Linux Foundation Executive Director Jim Zemlin, and HP Enterprise Group SVP Antonio Neri were among the keynote speakers.
Also speaking was OpenStack co-founder Cole Crawford, who now heads a startup called Vapor.io that’s dedicated to reforming the datacenter hardware industry. Open Compute CEO Corey Bell, who was named to this position in December, was also promiment during the conference.
Two Worlds, Meeting
Datacenter professionals are obsessed with the cost of electricity per kilowatt-hour, and talk in terms of PUE (Power Usage Effectiveness, the relative amount of power needed to keep all that iron in a datacenter running cool). The number of kilowatts that can be stuffed into a rack, the cost per megawatt to build a new center, and whether buildings really need to feel like meat lockers are all major topics of discussion.
Meanwhile, software professionals – like the thousands who’ve been trekking to New York and Santa Clara for Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo – think about hybrid cloud, lean and agile programming, the new trend toward microservices, and the revival of containers.
These two worlds meet in pieces of a couple of Venn diagrams—the first in their commitments to transparency and open source, the second in their renewed thinking about containers.
Three of the four largest datacenter operators in the world are anything but open, according to a number of speakers at the Open Compute Summit. The fourth, Facebook, was lauded for its willingness to break from the pack. It is, of course, in any datacenter operator’s interest to share knowledge, as even small increments in improved performance and best practices can have millions of dollars of operational impact annually to a major operator.
The impacts are also important to smaller players as well. All of IT collectively uses about 10 percent of global electricity, according to several sources I’ve seen. Additionally, the emergence of smart meters, smart grids, and smart appliances will, in theory, allow a magnified impact on electricity use if the IT itself can lower electricity use by all those things attached to the IoT.
To Dream the Impossible Dream
The research I’ve led at our Tau Institute for the past three years shows that dramatic increases in societal development throughout the world will not occur unless humanity as a whole vastly improves its energy efficiency. Most developing nations use 3 to 5% of the electricity per-person as the developed world, and it will simply be impossible, economically and physically, to replicate developed levels of energy use on a global scale.
Cloud Expo | @ThingsExpo
More specifically, and in the short term, I need to note that we have just opened some key speaking opportunities on the topic of microservices and containers on the Cloud Expo | @ThingsExpo program. Please visit the website or contact me via Twitter to learn more.
The Open Compute Project is large, ambitious, and peopled with passionate proponents. But it is just one way to make a difference. Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo are another. Please let me know any other ideas you have!