I've been watching the Facebook Open Compute news and have had a bunch of people send me links. From a PR perspective Facebook did extremely well. What is funny is how some, well many, almost all media thinking that Open in Open Compute means Facebook shared everything in its Prineville data center.
The best trick: Facebook released all the specs for the data center
Note the word all. When you go to http://opencompute.org/. I sure don't see all the specs for a data center. Do you? There are pdf documents. The Data Centers section has drawings for the racks, but not for the electrical, mechanical, battery cabinet.
One of my friends has been sending me various articles he finds, and one poppped out. For a good analysis on Facebook's openness and what they share check out this marco.org's post. Here are nuggets that Marco captures.
Nothing about Facebook’s design is particularly revolutionary to casual industry observers (except the impressive PSU efficiency). The much more interesting question is why they released this. It’s only going to be useful to a very small number of firms for the foreseeable future, and even then, it’s not as if anyone who wants these server or rack designs can just place an order — they’re just designs.
On a large scale like this — not a small open-source project by good-willed individuals — “opening” something is almost always an effort to commoditize it, leveling the playing field as much as possible and marginalizing competitive advantages that others might have had.
Nobody “opens” the parts of their business that make them money, maintain barriers to competitive entry, or otherwise provide significant competitive advantages.
We can reasonably conclude from the Open Compute Project that Facebook isn’t trying to maintain a top-secret competitive advantage in hardware and datacenter design, and they’re not expecting anyone else to gain a meaningful, exclusive advantage by copying ideas from theirs and keeping the results secret.
Marco comes to the following conclusion.
My best guess is that this is primarily for recruiting engineering talent. There’s no shortage of engineers, but there’s always a shortage of greatones, especially in Silicon Valley. Google has been a talent vacuum for a long time since it’s so appealing for most engineers to work there.
One point I think Marco misses is the effect of Greenpeace and its pressure for Facebook to use renewable energy. Much of the Facebook's Open Compute effort talks about how it is energy efficient, and the Open Compute project is Facebook's way of saying we are contributing to lower power use by the IT industry.