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Open19: LinkedIn's bid to lower barriers to open source datacentre tech adoption gathers pace

The Open19 Foundation's mission to create new open industry standards for 19-inch servers continues apace

Open 19, the LinkedIn-backed effort to increase adoption of open source technologies in datacentres, is on the hunt for further contributors to join its cause.

A governing body, named the Open19 Foundation, is now in place to oversee its work, and counts LinkedIn, Flex, GE Digital, HPE and Vapor IO as founding members.

The foundation has confirmed one of its initial hardware contribution will be the creation of an Open19 industry specification for a common server form factor that can be accommodated in general and edge datacentres.

To assist with this process, the foundation’s members said they were on the hunt for additional contributors to join its ranks, with individuals and whole companies actively encouraged to get involved.

The Open19 Foundation has broadly similar aims and ambitions to the Facebook-backed Open Compute Project (OCP), but where they differ most is in their championing of different sized server racks.

Open19 designs are based on the industry-standard 19-inch server racks, while OCP and its contributors back the less common 21-inch rack design.

Industry watchers regularly cite OCP’s support for 21-inch racks as being a partial barrier to adoption of its technologies outside the hyperscale cloud and internet provider community.

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Open19 seeks to remove these barriers by through the creation of open source datacentre technologies that can be optimised and retrofitted into any size of facility through its support for 19-inch server rack designs.

Sonu Nayyar, vice-president of global operations at social networking site LinkedIn, said of the foundation’s launch: “We are proud to have built and incubated Open19 and to continue our support as a founding partner of the Open19 Foundation.

“We look forward to working alongside the rest of the founding partners and members in the future and to officially contribute the Open19 project to the larger community,” he said.

OCP vs. Open19

While it would be easy to pit OCP against Open19, Jeffrey Fidacaro, senior analyst of datacentre technologies at 451 Research, said in a recent report there is every chance to two movements will join forces later down the line.

“The Open19 project has attracted a solid list of 21 partners including LinkedIn, although nearly two-thirds are also members of OCP, with five classified as either OCP platinum or gold member status,” he wrote.

“This suggests the partners believe their individual experiences in open source designs will translate easily, and are likely hedging their bets as they chase incremental market opportunities.”

It is also worth noting, said Fidacaro, that LinkedIn’s owner, Microsoft, is a backer of OCP, which is another reason why a tie-up between OCP and Open19 is not beyond the realms of possibility.

“Microsoft is currently standardising its datacentre hardware on OCP-based designs. It is therefore unclear at the moment how the two disparate datacentre infrastructure strategies will play out – or potentially converge,” he said.

Enterprise appeal of OCP

For many enterprises and colocation providers, who have designed their facilities to cater for 19-inch racks, adopting OCP server designs would require a sizeable overhaul of their existing datacentres to accommodate the technology.

OCP technologies are often only available from a relatively small pool of suppliers, which can limit its appeal to enterprise and colocation providers in some instances.

That said, colocation giant Equinix is a known supporter of OCP and has reportedly implemented its technology in some of its sites.

Meanwhile, CBRE noted an uptick, in one of its recent European datacentre market reports, in the number of colocation providers revamping their sites to accommodate the design requirements of the ever-growing hyperscale cloud firms.

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