Open19, LinkedIn’s open source data center project, launched a foundation and announced founding members last week, including GE Digital, HPE, Flex, and Vapor IO. This builds on the Open19 concept development work LinkedIn started in 2016.
In some ways Open19 sounds a lot like the Open Compute Project (OCP), Facebook’s open source initiative that launched in 2011. Both focus on open hardware and software for the data center. Many Open19 members — Microsoft (which owns LinkedIn), GE Digital, HPE, and Vapor IO — are also OCP members.
But the two projects aren’t competing, said some Open19 founders.
Vapor IO CEO Cole Crawford described Open19’s relationship to OCP as “complementary.” A key difference between the two is that Open19 doesn’t require suppliers to open source their intellectual property, he said. “Open19 allows for innovation over a common server form factor without forcing IP to be shared inside of the server itself.”
“It is completely complementary,” added Yuval Bachar, president of the Open19 Foundation and principal engineer of global infrastructure architecture at LinkedIn. “It’s an extension to an area where Open Compute cannot address, where people want to keep their IP as a competitive advantage.”
The goal of Open19, which LinkedIn first announced in July 2016, was to create an open standard that works in any EIA 19-inch rack (that’s where the name comes from). One of its first hardware projects is the Open19 Platform industry specification that defines a cross-industry common server form factor.
Having a common standard allows suppliers to produce servers that will interoperate and be interchangeable in any rack environment, allowing for faster rack integration, the group said. And unlike OCP, it doesn’t require suppliers to open source their innovations.
“We are trying to define a framework and standard that we can work around and innovate around in Open19, compared to the Open Compute Project’s open-source technologies for hardware,” Bachar said. “We left the solution open-ended from the perspective that the standard is fully specked but the innovation platform is happening inside. Each company can innovate and not necessarily be forced to put their IP out there and create a situation where they lose their competitive advantage.”
The platform has three main common elements: brick cage, power shelf, and network switch. It supports four form factors: brick, double wide brick, double high half width brick, and double high double wide brick.
Bachar said the platform is undergoing testing and will be released in the fourth quarter of this year. “We have to confirm all the technology is there and the interoperability is there, and the solution is robust,” Bachar said.
In the meantime, the Open19 Foundation will review other projects, like the open source software that Vapor IO will soon submit to the foundation for review, Crawford said.
Standardizing Edge Deployments
Another key difference between OCP and Open19 is the latter’s focus on standardizing edge deployments.
“The edge is an emerging market that we believe will be a very dominant market in the next three to five years,” Bachar said. “With the emergence of the Internet of Things, edge processing capabilities are going to be a must.”
The Internet of Things (IoT) and other data-intensive technologies that must be processed in near-real time are driving edge computing, where machines transmit data to a local gateway device instead of sending it back to the cloud or a central data center.
“This is actually a huge difference for a company like Vapor IO that is really only targeting the edge, said Crawford, who also recently posted a blog about how Open19 will drive edge computing. “What Open19 allows us to do is offer a standardized truck role, regardless of server manufacturer.”