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Some details on Facebook’s Open Compute Project

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October 31, 2014

Microsoft says it has released a second batch of blueprints from its server farm to describe a bit on how Facebook’s Open Compute Project works.

Yesterday Microsoft published some new specs for servers and open-sourced code for the in-house tools its technicians use to set up and run Azure, Office 365, Bing and Xbox Live.

The idea is for anyone to take Microsoft’s hardware designs to a custom manufacturer and have them build the exact same system. You can then use Microsoft's system admin tools to run things.

Microsoft said that its designs, called Open Cloud Server specification version 2 (OCS v2) will help users reduce costs and will also mean greater power efficiency and improved uptime.

OCS v2 employs greater use of standardized components and interfaces-– the marching song of the OCP begun by Facebook in 2011.

In the case of Facebook, Microsoft does believe that convergence on a unified design will mean greater economics of scale in its own supply chain and provide the ability to deliver a greater array of cloud services from the same underlying platform.

“Overall, Microsoft has committed to advancing the OCP agenda by bringing the learnings from our own experience and incorporating that into our own hardware design and then bringing that to the industry,” the general manager for server engineering in Microsoft's cloud and enterprise division, Kushagra Vaid, said at Paris' Open Compute Project last week.

“This also helps drive down the issue of how we bring cloud-scale computing to the masses,” he added.

OCS v2 is Microsoft’s second donation to OCP since joining in January and features a number of important improvements that mean greater performance and flexibility, Vaid said.

Microsoft has been testing OCS v2 for 6 months to run IaaS and PaaS in Windows Azure, host email and collaboration on Office 365 and gaming services on Xbox Live.

OCS v2 has a dual-processor design based on Intel Haswell CPUs with up to twenty-eight cores per blade; 40 gigabit Ethernet networking – with support for routable RDMA over Converged Ethernet for fast throughput; the utilization of m.2 Flash-based memory for density of design and rapid retrieval of data; support for memory capacity of increments of 128, 192 and 256GB; use of FPGA accelerators for servers to be tuned to unique workloads; and a compact 1600 watt power supply that is capable of a hold-up time of 20 milliseconds to cover switch over between utility and generator to avoid service interruptions.

The hardware specs will be released in a 350-page document on the OCP’s website, complete with files for the chassis and mechanical CAD modules.

“You have the design collateral so you can take the design package, go to a contract manufacturer and say-- Build me this thing,” Vaid added.

Additionally, Microsoft has open-sourced the code for its operations tool kit, a PowerShell environment it built and used internally to manage and run servers, and an interoperability and compliance toolkit that ensures all the parts in a rack work together, as it pertains to Facebook's own needs.

The toolkit incorporates various diagnostics to better identify service failures, stress-test tools and an automated upgrade tool designed to take care of rollouts of things like software and BIOS upgrades.

Source: Microsoft.

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