Published 22 January 2017
Last November, I attended the DataCenterDynamics Zettastructure conference in London. There was a number of workshops on Open Compute Project (OCP) and one particular topic stands out – how OCP will impact the third party colocation players in Europe. To me, by extension, the same issue is faced by data centers in Asia when considering OCP type of racks.
On OCP website, it says “The Open Compute Project is …. More efficient, flexible and scalable”. The question is, to whom? At the moment, they are meant for the hyperscale data centers, i.e. used by Facebook, Yahoo!, Microsoft and such.
One benefit cited by OCP vendors is the speed to implement the compute/storage capacity, which meant that the compute/storage capacity arrives on site and ready to plug in. There should not be any on rack-on/rack-off work needed other than to plug the power in.
In the United States, Facebook, Yahoo!, Microsoft have large facilities (be it first party or third party custom-built site) are designed and built to accommodate hyperscale deployment and these sites accommodate the OCP racks without major issue.
The thing is, most sites in the rest of the world is not planned, designed nor implemented to accommodate thousands of OCP racks. The workshop where I participated in have colocation service providers asking the OCP data center project members what is the average power draw of average OCP racks, so that their private suite or colocation hall can accommodate some limited quantity of OCP racks.
When I talk to data center engineers from the Baidu-Alibaba-Tencent trio, they said their Project Scorpio (now called Open Data Center Committee – ODCC) racks are designed to fit into the top few data center facilities in data centers in 1st and 2nd tier China cities, on average putting 7kW cap per rack power capacity when going into third party colocation facility. This philosophy meant their asset light data center deployment with hot/cold aisle containment deployment of the Scorpio racks can go as planned in nearby every city that they wanted to deploy compute/storage capacity.
The other issue with OCP / ODCC racks are that these are mainly designed for hyperscale data center usage, and the largest users of IT hardware, meaning the enterprises are so called “missing out” on the benefits of quick deployment of IT capacity. Data centers in Asia, be it colocation space or enterprise data centers/computer rooms, are mostly around 5 to 6kW per rack in most of Asia (reference 4, 5 and 6).
Be it Baidu-Alibaba-Tencent, or Facebook, Yahoo!, Microsoft, these OCP / ODCC racks will not benefit the enterprises unless they accommodate demand of enterprise data center. Currently, the enterprise IT side do not see much benefit of OCP / ODCC, as they don’t look at their need of compute/storage on the scale that the current clients of OCP / ODCC. However, I believe this will change. Enterprise IT talk about software / app deployment too, and compute/storage last and this create pressure on the data center folks to quickly get ready space/rack and the IT capacity folks procure server/storage/network to add to current pool. Until the OCP / ODCC vendors think in terms of the way of the enterprise IT, which I predict they will, the enterprise data center market will not warm up the the OCP / ODCC vendors.
However, this is where I think the OCP vendors ill not limit their offerings to the Internet giants. They will need to consider when designing their hardware in consideration of the enterprise market because it is much larger than the Internet giants, such as designing their racks (which includes compute/storage/network gear) to be in stepped load of say 6, 8, 10 kW, and in terms of how enterprise IT will use them, i.e. on a per rack or per project basis or per enterprise private cloud basis. A new OCP vendor that I spoke to in London said that given the competition and the limited customer pool (of hyperscale data center), they want to sell to the enterprises. Sooner or later, we will see some sort of OCP / ODCC racks that are designed for deployment by enterprise into enterprise data centers and also third party colocation data centers.