Open Data Center Standards: Engage or Resist?

Emerging open-standards communities are becoming a more relevant and disruptive force in the data center infrastructure market

Open data center standards represent a brave new world for data center infrastructure (DCI) products. This world is exemplified by three key groups. These groups are developing and sharing standards and reference designs for DCI hardware, with the aim of helping data center organizations reduce costs through efficient design and hardware utilization. Heeral Kota, principal research analyst at Gartner, provided an overview of the three prevailing standards:

Open Compute Project (OCP)

Established in 2011 by Facebook

About: The OCP was founded for Facebook to share the learnings of building its own data centers. It develops and shares designs for compute, storage and general DCI, relating to servers, chassis and racks, as well as their power and cooling. It seeks to offer energy-efficient and low-cost open-source solutions for both hardware and software, and aims for these to be interoperable and collaborative.

The Open Compute Project Foundation can count some powerful brands among its membership, including Microsoft and Goldman Sachs. It leverages the skills of a global community of engineers from major end users.

Scale: Has momentum and the potential to overpower rival standards. Alternatively, its subprojects could become new standards of their own, creating versions of the OCP for different markets and bolstering the profile of the overarching standard.

Project Scorpio

Established in 2011 by Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent

About: Project Scorpio is a full-fledged open DCI standard with significant visibility in the Chinese market. It seeks to create a modular and highly efficient rack-based DCI standard for easier design and delivery. The standard includes six subsystems (rack, node, fan, power, management and network) and focuses on front-end maintenance. It requires some modification from a standard data center.

In November 2014, Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent formed the Open Data Center Committee with China Telecom, China Mobile and the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology. Three workgroups operate under this committee, for servers, data centers, and testing and certification. Intel also provides technology advice for Project Scorpio.

Scale: Has become a fundamental part of the servers workgroup. While focusing on a narrower range of features than the OCP, Project Scorpio could see momentum with sufficient local adoption.

Open Data Center Alliance (ODCA)

Established in 2010 by a consortium of global IT organizations

About: Under the ODCA sit five technical workgroups for infrastructure, management, regulation and ecosystem, security, and services. These drive development of open data center usage models and other publications. The ODCA aims to shape the future of cloud computing, based on open and interoperable standards, and is especially focused on secure cloud federation, cloud infrastructure automation, and common management and transparency of cloud service delivery.

Scale: Seeks to define through its membership the user requirements for cloud adoption at the high level, rather than focusing on hardware and DCI specifics. Providers that satisfy these standards will get opportunities to access its membership; in doing so (as with the other two initiatives), the end users help determine what technology is delivered and how. The providers’ influence is weakened as a result.

Gartner clients can read more on open data center standards in the Research Note, “Emerging Open Data Center Standards Challenge Data Center Infrastructure Providers to Engage or Resist”, or by attending the Gartner Data Center, Infrastructure & Operations Management Summit 2015  taking place on November 30 —December 1 in London, or the Gartner Data Center, Infrastructure & Operations Management Conference 2015 taking place in Las Vegas, Nevada on December 7-10. You can follow updates from the events on Twitter using the hashtag #GartnerDC.