Open Compute Widens Servers with Open Rack

by Sean Michael Kerner

19 inch servers could soon become a thing of the past as the open source group pushes a new standard.

Since the dawn of the computing age, data center servers have been 19 inches in width, fitting into racks that have an outer dimension of 24 inches. The Open Compute Project today announced a new Open Rack standard that will change the interior server width to 21 inches in a bid to improve server density for hyperscale computing data centers.

The announcement came during the Open Compute Summit in Texas today where the Open Compute Project (OCP) celebrated its first anniversary. OCP is an effort originated by Facebook that has now grown to include many of the leading vendors in the IT industry.

"The engine behind the cloud is the data center and servers — the physical assets," Lew Moorman, President of Rackspace said during the Open Stack Summit. "Ultimately, the cloud is something."

Moorman noted that in order to move forward there is a need for lower cost, more reliable and greener data centers, and that's what is starting to happen. To that end, OCP is pushing forward its Open Rack effort.

"Racks may not sound so sexy, but they're a critical component in all data centers," Facebooks' Frank Frankovsky, founding board member of the Open Compute Projectm, said.

Open Rack is about standardizing the electrical and mechanical interfaces in a rack. The idea is to have a completely standardized way for the rack to interface with the data center and for IT devices to interface with the rack itself.

The Open Rack is a 21" width specification for servers that Frankovsky referred to as being similar to the original promise of blade servers. Though in Frankovsky's view, blade servers have not lived up to their initial promise of enabling an easier way to deliver servers.

The promise with server blades was the ability to aggregate IT equipment into a common platform. According to Frankovsky, the problem that emerged is that blade servers ended up being designed in a proprietary way.

"With Open Rack, think of it as tyring to bring the promise of blade servers, but doing it at the rack level and doing it in open source," Frankovsky said. "I consider it to be 'blades done right.'"

The open nature of Open Rack is what will help the effort from going down the same path as blade servers. While the Open Rack effort is still in its early days, both HP and Dell voiced their support on stage at the Open Compute Summit today.

In HP's case in particular, the company announced that they are building out an effort called Project Coyote to help deliver on the promise of Open Rack.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.


This article was originally published on Wednesday May 2nd 2012
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