The Open Compute Project isn’t just for propellerheads any more. HP today launched the first line of off-the-shelf servers for the open source project, creating an OCP option that comes with enterprise-style testing and documentation.
HP’s arrival should help broaden the appeal of Open Compute, said Frank Frankovsky, the former Facebook VP who’s helped drive Open Compute. He left last year to start an optical storage company but was still the kickoff speaker at the Open Compute Summit today, where HP and several other vendors made announcements around the open source hardware project.
OCP is meant to counter the handicaps of normal off-the-shelf hardware. Buying commercial equipment gets you certain assurances — it’s been quality-tested, and it has documentation — but you don’t get a system that was built with your problems and tasks in mind, Frankovsky said.
OCP opens the possibility of customized equipment, but — like any new product — that creates new problems. If you don’t have the volume to absorb the non-recurring engineering costs, then the price “may not be as attractive as you want,” Frankovsky said. And there’s the lack of documentation and proven quality assurance to grapple with.
“If you want to customize a product, you probably want to have a certain amount of volume and a certain amount of internal expertise,” Frankovsky said.
So HP, in a newly minted joint venture with Foxconn, launched the Cloudline family of servers today, providing an off-the-shelf option from a known brand name. “They’re also going to bring the full weight of their supply chain, their QA expertise, and their documentation to that effort,” Frankovsky said.
Here’s what’s in Cloudline:
- Two rack-scale systems, including the CL7100, shown in the photo above. These target the largest of data centers. “We’re talking about server farms that can be tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, or millions,” said Alain Andreoli, HP’s vice president of servers. These are due to appear in proof-of-concept quantities in the third quarter of this year, with volume shipments due int he fourth quarter.
- Bare-iron rack servers, as HP calls them, due to ship in the next 30 to 60 days. These are 1U and 2U servers aiming for low prices. One, the Cloudline 1100, is a two-socket server with the barest feature set possible (including memory), engineered to be ultra cheap.
- Dense multinode servers, due to come out at an unspecified future time. This is an equipment chassis packed with one- and two-socket servers, “really designed for hosting and other areas where people want simple deployment and a large number of nodes,” said John Gromala, senior director of hyperscale service product management at HP.
HP will continue selling its normal server line, Proliant, of course. But Cloudline targets the open-design community and is obviously built on a wholly different philosophy. “Every one of those [Proliant] systems is managed very tightly on how they’re put together,” whereas Cloudline is built on open design principles, Gromala said.
Photo: Alain Andreoli, VP of HP Servers (left) and Foo-Ming Fu, VP of Foxconn Technology Group, unveiling the CL7100 at the Open Compute Summit.