Taking Open19 from Concept to Industry Standard

May 23, 2017

In July 2016, LinkedIn unveiled Open19, a new project with the aim to establish open standards for servers based on a common form factor to change the way future data centers will be built. Since that time, we have received an outpouring of support and interest from the community in both the project and the vision behind it. So, in keeping with our open source values and our desire to continue building on the early interest in Open19, today we are happy to announce the launch of the Open19 Foundation.

The Open19 Foundation is a new organization established to build a community for a new generation of open data centers and edge solutions, launched today with founding members Flex, GE Digital, HP Enterprise, LinkedIn, and Vapor IO. The Open19 Foundation seeks to create project-based open hardware and software solutions for the data center industry.

The Foundation is now open for contributions and for building an ecosystem of users and suppliers. When we announced the initiation of the project seven months ago, we were in the really early stages of developing open data center technology. Since that time, the project has evolved, introduced a significant level of openness and seen a very high level of interest by data center operators, integrators, and suppliers. This blog will give a look into the cycle we went through to build a new open standards organization while at the same time delivering a truly open, innovative platform for data centers and edge platforms.

Starting with an open data center concept

We started the Open19 concept development about 10 months ago, looking for a solution that would fit any location and any size, but which would also optimize mid-sized data center build outs to the same degree that mega data centers can be optimized. It sounds simple in theory…not so much in execution. Mega data centers have traditionally been able to create a highly-optimized architecture because they are very repetitive environments with very large volumes to justify proprietary designs when necessary. Most data centers, however, are not like that. To design the type of solution we were looking for, we had to go investigate and find the common denominators of the average data center and optimize only those elements, while still creating value and differentiating technology. Along the way, we discovered that by building a community of like-minded companies around our concept, we were able to shift the market just like a mega data center operator.

From these circumstances, Open19 was born and matured to an open standard technology with a high level of adoption and a large and strong community defining an industry common form factor across server suppliers for the first time in the data center industry.

Building a business case and framework

Building a business case was a complicated process, but since the concept of Open19 addressed a wide variety of environments and scopes, we decided to focus on three configurations: large data centers (100K+ servers) fully loaded, large data centers with open slots only, and small edge platforms. We centralized every aspect that we could and created a common, fully disaggregated solution for all of the configurations.

For large data centers, we optimized the server cost by removing the power supplies and creating a bare-bones server and by optimizing the power distribution and the data distribution while minimizing the cost of creating the structure to support them. We could only estimate what the impact would be on a multi-source, supplier-competitive data center slot, but as it turned out, our combination created a superior cost model when compared to a stand-alone, supplier-specific server chassis model.

Extending this model to a small footprint was very simple, leveraging the same technology for power, networking, and enclosure, while the optimized building block for a cost-effective solution is 32-48 servers. A 16-server configuration can still be optimized for cost by leveraging the large-scale environment as an extension.

We believe the Open19 technology framework will be used to create new business models and optimized data center/edge “mini” data center configurations.

Creating a layered ecosystem

After establishing the business model and the framework for Open19, the next step for us was to validate that framework with the data center and edge center suppliers, integrators, and peers. We built the ecosystem in a layered way, starting with component suppliers, going through system-level suppliers and integrators, and lastly with the data center operators. We found a very receptive ecosystem hungry for a new and differentiating open hardware and software technology and approach to sharing technology. The diagram below represents this layered ecosystem, including some of the partners we have for the Open19 Foundation.

  • Open191

Building the Open19 Foundation organization

Along with our partners, we built the Open19 Foundation organization with a very clear philosophy and goal: to get the best community for sharing and collaborating. We sought to minimize any commercial impact on the decision-making process and enable everyone, small or big, established or startup, to have an equal voice and stand. For that reason, the Open19 Foundation does not define any specialty membership levels—all members are equal, except the group of five founding members, which will have the ability to steer to organization and maintain its culture and values at all times.

We created a very simple and flat project organization that enables each company that makes a project-level contribution to continue to manage that project the way they envisioned it, while at the same time allowing for contributions, feedback, and branching from that project.

We created a flat fee model, designed just to maintain the organization, with consideration for smaller companies (startups) to still be able to afford being a contributing and adopting member.

For more information, please refer to the Open19 website.

Open19 Foundation benefits and value

Based on our past experiences with open technology, we made every effort to make sure that anyone can adopt, contribute back, and participate in the Open19 Foundation projects. We also believe that partners at every level will see value in participating. From the components suppliers that see value in standardizing a solution and enabling high-volume common deployments, to the system-level suppliers that see an opportunity to innovate while still serving the majority of data centers, to the integrators and data center operators that will see benefits in reduced integration time and cost, there are incentives across the board when it comes to creating shared solutions in this space.

As part of our commitment to openness and providing designs that anyone can adopt and build, we plan to release the full design and manufacturing files for the Open19 platform. We want each company to contribute to the effort, maintaining their independence and protecting their intellectual property, while interoperating with each other under the Open19 platform umbrella. The Open19 platform is suited to a high level of adoption by our peers and suppliers since it is simple, fits to any environment, and enables the full reuse of existing server and data center technology.

The Open19 platform

The Open19 platform has reached a pre-production level of maturity, and the pre-production units are currently in our labs undergoing rigorous testing and validation before we release them to final production build and to the public.

  • Open192

The Open19 platform is based on standard building blocks with the following specifications:

  • Standard 19” 4-post rack

  • Brick cage

  • Brick (B), Double Wide Brick (DWB), Double High Brick (DHB), Double High & Wide Brick (DHWB)

  • Power shelf: 12v distribution, OTS power modules with any AC or DC inputs

  • Optional Battery Backup Unit (BBU)

  • Networking switch (ToR)

  • Snap-on power cables – up to 400w per brick, linear growth with size

  • Snap-on data cables – up to 100G per brick, linear growth with size
  • Open194

By focusing on these standard elements, we believe that Open19 platform designs will be more modular and efficient to install, as well as containing components that are easy to multi-source and use.

Become part of the Open19 Foundation

You can become a member of the Open19 Foundation as an individual (free) or as a company; for more details, check out the newly-designed website membership section. We’ve built a very flat community organization where everyone is equal and can participate while contributing what they can or consuming the technology for interoperability.