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Open IT Hardware: The New Beautiful For Corporate Information Technology

Open Hardware – The “New Beautiful” for IT Professionals

The Open Compute Project is the disruptive event that corporate IT Technical and Purchasing professionals have been dreaming of for many years. The result will be hardware that is 20% to 40% less expensive, reliability improvements of 3x, drastically reduced operational costs, improved scalability, faster upgrade cycle and it will be much better for the environment. A number of people have commented that while the resulting hardware and data centers may not be as aesthetically pleasing to outsiders the benefits certainly do make this the New Beautiful for the IT world.

On the other hand, for traditional corporate IT vendors this is not great news as the disaggregation of hardware and even networking means customers no longer pay for what they do not need and can control costs very well. Being based in the San Francisco Financial district and it being the final week of Sept 2013 I am surrounded by a bacchanalian spectacle of all things Oracle with Americas Cup in the Bay, Oracle World blocking of the streets to the west and later a full concert to the south at the Giants stadium – all paid for by Oracle customers one way or another.

Some specific details the benefits of open compute:

Less Expensive Hardware

All vanity is removed form hardware. No slick looking cases with shining logos. Not only do they add cost but also restrict air flow leading to the need for more expensive cooling. Also the shiny cases make it more difficult to perform maintenance and service. Furthermore – only what is critical to performance is in the system. There are no bells and whistles included because of the need to meet all use cases by the traditional hardware OEMs.

Reliability Improvement

Because only what is essential is included and components are optimized for use there is less hardware to fail. Furthermore testing of hardware can be more rigorous and tailored to specific use.

Reduced Operational Cost

Less power used equals less cost. Furthermore the increased reliability and optimized configurations mean that the ratio of technicians to servers can be much greater.

Improved Scalability and Faster Upgrade Cycle

The disaggregation of the system means that major components like processors and memory can be modularized on replaceable “sleds” which can be added for scale or replaced as new technology comes about. Consider that the technology cycle for processors refreshes every 12 to 18 months. However, when purchasing a ready-made server many companies lock in the technology with a 3 year depreciation term for the entire server which prevents upgrades.

Better for the Environment

· Less material upfront for hardware which also means less e waste down the road.

· Drastically reduced power consumption for ongoing operations.

If your corporate IT strategy is not to follow the Open Compute Project guidelines specifically there are 2 possible outcomes:

1. The good outcome is the traditional OEM server companies will become more responsive as a result with total cost benefits going to customers

2. The less than positive outcome is that the traditional OEM server and networking hardware companies will have to raise prices as they lose business in order to keep paying for their yachts, concerts and golf tournaments.

All corporate IT Operations and Purchasing professionals should actively follow developments of the Open Computing Project and use the information to challenge both internal operations and suppliers to do better.

The concept of open technology development for computing technology is a positive development that will provide multiple benefits to many stakeholders all the way from component makers to final consumers of services or products. The biggest impact will be on traditional producers of IT hardware although they will certainly adapt as dictated by the market place. Astute IT professionals should start following open hardware developments. While it may seem now that benefits will go mostly to large organizations this shift will benefit even relatively small IT users that are aware.

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