Google joins Open Compute Project to drive the future of data centres

10 Mar 2016

Google has joined the Open Compute Project and is working with Facebook on a new 48V architecture to realise its aims of more power efficient data centres

Five years after Facebook and others started the Open Compute Project, which has helped internet players realise vast savings and efficiencies in data centres, Google has joined the project to help drive the standardisation of IT infrastructure.

The Open Compute Project was established with the goal of achieving efficiencies in IT infrastructure by bringing open-source thinking to hardware creation.

Facebook was able to realise $1.2bn in cost savings in the first three to four years of the Open Compute Project, which identified better ways of realising energy efficiency as well as running data centres using software-defined networks.

Google, which is rolling out new kinds of data centres using different cooling techniques, now wants to do the same and be nimble and agile with its infrastructure deployment.

Google is building a second $150m data centre in west Dublin and Facebook recently revealed plans to build a $200m data centre in Clonee, Co Meath.

‘We’re collaborating with Facebook on a common 48V rack that we intend to submit for consideration by Open Compute Project’

“More specifically, Google will contribute a new rack specification that includes 48V power distribution and a new form factor to allow OCP racks to fit into our data centres,” explained John Zipfel, technical programme manager at Google.

The future of data centres

Why Google never joined the Open Compute Project five years ago is a mystery, possibly to do with precious intellectual property around the running of its data centres.

But it appears that Google and the rest of the internet industry were all trying to achieve the same thing – achieving more power efficiency out of computer resources.

Zipfel said that Google had been advocating for better power efficiency since its early days and, in 2006, shared details of its 12-volt architecture for racks that support and power rows upon rows of servers.

The internet giant kicked off the development of 48V rack power distribution in 2010, and found it was at least 30pc more energy efficient and more cost effective in supporting these higher-performance systems.

As internet use skyrockets thanks to smartphones, demand for video and the arrival of the internet of things, it appears Google has decided its better to work with the industry on achieving common goals.

“Our 48V architecture has since evolved and includes servers with 48V to point-of-load designs, and rack-level 48V Li-Ion UPS systems,” said Zipfel.

“Google has been designing and using 48V infrastructure at scale for several years, and we feel comfortable with the robustness of the design and its reliability.

“As the industry’s working to solve these same problems and dealing with higher-power workloads, such as GPUs for machine learning, it makes sense to standardise this new design by working with OCP. We believe this will help everyone adopt this next-generation power architecture, and realise the same power efficiency and cost benefits as Google.

“The Open Compute community is an established collection of consumers and producers, and we see an opportunity to contribute our experience and expand the Open Rack specification. We’re collaborating with Facebook on a common 48V rack that we intend to submit for consideration by OCP.

“Today’s launch is a first step in a larger effort,” Zipfel said.

Data centre image via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years