Does OCP Compute for Rack Makers?

April 27, 2016
Schneider Electric and Emerson Network Power are actively engaging with the Open Compute Project, introducing racks, power equipment and even new business units designed to build upon the community’s progress.

SAN JOSE, Calif. – Can the largest players in the data center power and cooling business benefit from the Open Compute Project? Schneider Electric and Emerson Network Power are actively engaging with the open hardware movement, introducing racks, power equipment and even new business units designed to build upon the community’s progress.

The Open Compute Project (OCP) is a growing community of open source hardware hackers who are building on design innovations created for Facebook’s data centers. Over the past five years, a new generation of hardware vendors has leveraged open source OCP designs to win business in the hyperscale computing market, often at the expense of OEM incumbents like Dell and HPE.

The impact of Open Compute designs will increase as more infrastructure sales shift to cloud platforms, according to IDC, which sees cloud spending growing at a 20 percent annual rate while investment in on-premises enterprise data centers is declining slightly.

That’s why Schneider and Emerson were very visible at last month’s Open Compute Summit in San Jose, showing off racks and components designed for the OCP power shelf, which shifts power supplies from the server chassis to the rack.

Schneider Targets OCP for Hyperscale [Growth

“The Open Compute Project has been successful in bringing industry leaders together to collaborate on IT designs for large scale data centers,” said Kevin Brown, vice president, Global Data Center Strategy and Technology at Schneider Electric.

Schneider introduced a new Open Rack V2, as well as concept designs for a high density, high efficiency Power Supply Unit (PSU) and Battery Backup Unit (BBU).

The Open Rack provides a 21-inch wide slot for servers, expanding upon the 19-inch width that has long been the standard for data center hardware. The wider form factor will create more room for improved thermal management, as well as better connections for power and cabling. Power supplies are now separate from the server motherboards and reside in a “power shelf” at the base of the rack, where they tie into the busbar at the rear of the unit.

Schneider Electric’s new Open Rack V2, with power shelf components. (Photo: Rich Miller)

To work with OCP clients, Schneider has also started a new business unit led by Liang Zhang, who has been named Director – OCP Offer Development.

The company also offered a white paper and reference designs examining the tradeoffs in implementing Open Compute server and rack designs in facilities with traditional power infrastructure.

“When people talk about saving money with Open Compute, there’s an awful lot about the rack and IT level, but not much about the upstream power architecture,” said Brown. “For OCP to get broad adoption, it’s important to see the full picture.”

Brown said Schneider’s calculations found that the cost of a traditional 2N power infrastructure was approximately $2.77 a watt, compared to $1.53 per watt for an OCP-specific setup with 1N infrastructure. About 31 percent of the savings from OCP was achieved by shifting from 2N to 1N power.

That configuration will be a harder sell for enterprises, said Brown, who urged OCP enthusiasts to consider a range of power designs. “We think most enterprises will want to retain a 2N infrastructure,” said Brown.

To bridge the gap, Schneider has developed a reference architecture for “simplified 2N” power design that splits the difference, coming in at a cost of about $2.15 per watt. A major variable in the cost calculation is the cost of power supplies, which must be matched to the load.

Emerson Sees Payoff

Emerson Network Power had its OCP_Ready Integrated Rack on display at its booth at the Open Compute Summit in San Jose, Calif. last month. (Photo: Rich Miller)

Emerson Network Power’s early commitment to the Open Compute movement has paid off in a significant way. Emerson had a presence at the Open Compute Summit since 2013, when it introduced its first Open Rack design and a consulting practice to work with customers on hyperscale infrastructure using OCP gear.

A year later, Emerson Network Power was selected by Facebook to provide a rapid deployment data center (RDDC) infrastructure for an expansion of the company’s campus in Lulea, Sweden. Emerson was to deliver over 250 shippable modules to Luleå, including power skids, evaporative air handlers, a water treatment plant, and data center superstructure solutions. The idea was to create three building blocks – data hall modules, electrical skids and mechanical units containing the cooling chambers – and bring them together at the construction site, delivering two data halls in the time it would take to build one.

“We worked with Facebook to understand their wants and needs, and we collectively developed an integrated, cost-effective, tailored solution,” said Scott Barbour, global business leader of Emerson Network Power.

At the Open Compute Summit, Emerson displayed its OCP-Ready Integrated Rack, which offers flexible rack infrastructure for OCP designs, including a power shelf featuring Emerson components.

“We’re solidly committed to providing power infrastructure for the Open Compute Project,” said Jack Pouchet, the Vice President of Market Development for Emerson Network Power.

A closer look at the Emerson Network Power OCP-Ready Integrated Rack, which offers flexible rack infrastructure for OCP designs, including a power shelf featuring Emerson components. (Photo: Rich Miller)

About the Author

Rich Miller

I write about the places where the Internet lives, telling the story of data centers and the people who build them. I founded Data Center Knowledge, the data center industry's leading news site. Now I'm exploring the future of cloud computing at Data Center Frontier.

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