The Stack Archive Feature

OCP: Towards pragmatism

Thu 1 Jun 2017 | Mark Dansie


Mark Dansie, technical project manager and OCP Data Center Project member, suggests why we need to consider the barriers to adoption of OCP innovations and work to find credible solutions…

Through the Open Compute Project (OCP) Foundation, an open source group which focuses on promoting hardware efficiencies in the data center, we have realised that some end users are experiencing difficulties in finding suitable colocation facilities with subsystems that support fully populated racks and high power conversion efficiency.

A typical challenge that a tenant faces includes insufficient weight loading specification for the access floor in the white space. This means that fully populated racks, which could weigh anything between 500kg and 1400kg, cannot be deployed without either the floor being strengthened or leasing more floor space. Both of these workarounds have a negative impact on the time to implement and the cost of the project.

To counteract these difficulties faced by early adopters, the OCP has decided to take proactive action. We realise that these problems could occur with other OCP rollouts if there isn’t sufficient awareness of the OCP infrastructure needs by colo operators and their tenants, which may hold back the take-up of OCP by enterprises.

It is not only about the ability of a facility to support an OCP rack, but also how well that data center conforms to the tenets of OCP

Overcoming infrastructure challenges

Our initial project work is focused on creating a suitability guide and quality checklist to assist European colocation facilities and their tenants in understanding what is needed to accommodate the latest Open Rack V2 design, which when populated could weigh up to 500kg and have a maximum IT load of 6.6kw.

Although within the Open Rack design there is the capability to support a much higher load –36kw of IT load and up to 1400kg – it was decided that to create a minimal viable product document as quickly as possible it would be best to restrict the checklist objectives to one that was less complex. The project team also considered that if the minimum requirement was set at this lower level it would allow up to 80% of the existing colo facilities in Europe to accommodate an Open Rack and therefore aid the adoption of OCP.

The next step for the project team is to create a certification program for colocation companies around OCP. It is not only about the ability of a facility to support an OCP rack, but also how well that data center conforms to the tenets of OCP, which can be described as follows:

  • The Open Rack design provides a larger frontal area for IT equipment. A data center that takes advantage of better airflow from this larger frontal area will be able to implement higher cold aisle set points and air cooling/economizer options that will result in a reduction in energy consumption and operational cost.
  • The Open Rack is designed so that less sheet metal material is used in comparison to traditional methods of IT gear construction and results in less EMI/EMC shielding. A facility that can accommodate IT gear with no FCC or EMI/EMC compliance can take advantage of this. If EMI/EMC is required then the CG-OpenRack-19 option supports this requirement while providing shared power and energy efficiency.
  • A colocation facility that can demonstrate that Openness is a fundamental part of their ethos and is demonstrated by the adoption of fully open hardware through the deployment of OCP ACCEPTED™ SKUs for all compute, storage, and networking, and support for ONIE in the bare metal switches.
  • The colocation facility can demonstrate SCALE readiness by having support agreements in place with OCP licensed Service Providers, which can guarantee availability of common spares and modules for the power shelf, and services such as full rack staging and deployment can be provided.

If we are to help move OCP to a point where pragmatists adopt it without question, we need to think long and hard about the restrictions

Other sub-projects that will evolve over the coming years include the development of a suitability guide and quality checklist for colocation facilities in North America, for enterprise data centers in Europe and North America, and for colocation and enterprise data centers used as telco central offices and telephone exchanges in both Europe and North America.

Crossing the chasm

As described in the book Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey A. Moore, OCP is in transition today between the visionaries (early adopters) and pragmatists (early majority). The take up of OCP is now moving into the ‘tornado stage’ described in his book Inside the Tornado: Strategies for Developing, Leveraging, and Surviving Hypergrowth Markets. The open source hardware supply chain now needs to build on the current momentum and interest shown by enterprises in Europe and help make the transformation to OCP as easy as possible.

We must be able to demonstrate to enterprises that systems built with OCP hardware and open software working in harmony across the stack can successfully work in parallel with more traditional methods of building cloud infrastructure. We must also be able to convince CIOs that adopting this type of open infrastructure will lead to a lower total cost of ownership (TCO) and create a flexible data center environment to meet any use case.

If we are to help move OCP to a point where pragmatists adopt it without question, we need to think long and hard about the restrictions, real and perceived, and provide useful and credible responses to the constraints.

Mark Dansie participates in the OCP Data Center Project team alongside co-leads Rob Bunger (Schneider Electric) and Jason Schafer (Google). He has also recruited and worked with subject matter experts from both sides of the Atlantic and mainland Europe such as Keith Sullivan (CSsquared), Alan Keizer (AFL Hyperscale), and Michael J Bailey (Fidelity Investments), John Laban (OCP), and Stijn de Kruijf (Royal HaskoningDHV).

The culmination of this work was presented at the recent annual 2017 OCP Summit in San Clara, California.

Experts featured:

Mark Dansie

Technical Project Manager & Data Center Project Member
Open Compute Project


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