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Introducing Open Compute Project Foundation

In this series, we speak to some of our members about SDIA, sustainability in general and their future plans. Today, we are featuring Steve Helvie and Stefan Frenzel of the Open Compute Project Foundation.

To begin, could you introduce us to the foundation?

The Open Compute Project Foundation, or OCP, is a technical nonprofit association established by Facebook back in 2011. At that time, they were growing quite rapidly, outpacing their hardware development cycles. As such, Facebook worked directly with the manufacturers to create their own server designs. Large companies working directly with manufacturers is not a novel concept, however, what is new is that after they worked with the vendors to solve specific problems in their data centers. They made those designs open source to a broader community. With the help of Microsoft, Intel, Rackspace, and Goldman Sachs, they formed OCP. Now we have more than 200 companies involved, and 5,000 engineers working across 30 projects in the data center industry. This ranges from rack and power to advanced cooling systems to telco and edge. We have large enterprises on board, and several vendors across the enterprise space.

You all have created a great community! Can you tell us a bit more about the role of sustainability within OCP?

In January, our Incubation Committee (technical steering committee) identified the strategic initiatives for 2021, where sustainability is one of the five focus areas. It is important to stress, however, that sustainability has always been reflected in our core tenets of impact, openness, and efficiency and OCP has a passion for simplicity - whether it be from the designs of the server all the way up to the data center. This simplicity means getting rid of the things we do not need, which increases efficiency in terms of power usage. Over the past few years, there are two areas that have been included within the broader sustainability dialogue: the technical contribution and the supply chain.

"Sustainability is highlighted as one of the five areas of focus for OCP in 2021." - Steve Helvie, OCP

Probably around three or four years ago, our project group for Data Center Facilities was not as active as our server or networking group. This changed around two years ago, because we fostered really strong leadership. And as in the case with most things, if you identify strong leaders, it tends to enhance that community. As a result, we experienced a lot of growth in the data center contributions that were happening through that project. Now, with the advent of advanced cooling, better facilities, and more sustainable design, all of the work that's happening at the project level drives a broader sustainability focus with, for example, heat reuse.

The second area is the supply chain itself. For example, our Platinum member ITRenew launched an initiative where they were taking hyperscale OCP equipment and recertifying it for the broader enterprise market. We think this sends a great message in terms of sustainability while promoting the circular economy.

Given your focus on sustainability, We are glad that you are now a member. What made you decide to join SDIA?

First of all, those areas of sustainability we mentioned have initiatives at the policy and the governmental level, and for us that is where SDIA comes in. Most of the efforts around sustainability are happening in Europe - an extremely progressive environment when it comes to regulation around efficiency and sustainability metrics. OCP fits well within this framework. Take for example the European Green Deal that was initiated at the beginning of 2020. A major topic within it relates to how the information and communications technology (ICT) industry needs to be climate neutral by 2030, which is something we are also striving to archive. OCP has some very active members within Europe that promote OCP through its regulatory bodies, and we are also involved in initiatives like GAIA-X. Europe is going to be setting the pace here.

We think that the SDIA is unique because you are approaching the issue from a different perspective. The SDIA Roadmap offers an interesting perspective and use cases to provide insight as to how we can achieve sustainability across multiple areas, for example in heat reuse and circular design. Emphasizing circularly designed hardware can help form that sustainability message from beginning to end as well. The SDIA has the foresight and ability to do some things that would not be possible in other regions simply due to your skill set and the relationships that you have across Europe and beyond. In addition, we see SDIA's role as being the bridge between hyperscale and enterprise, which can help make SDIA very successful. Just like OCP, SDIA is an open community dedicated to open-source values. We have noticed within OCP that working together and mutually agreeing on the most important technologies allows us to move the industry forward more quickly. The value of an open community is priceless, and we see SDIA is building this very quickly.

How can we support each other on this, often rocky, journey toward sustainability?

We have already been involved with SDIA since mid- 2020, and we feel like we are just getting started in terms of working together on the transformation of the digital sector. We are happy we can join forces and find ways to educate both of our communities. As part of the collaboration, we hope to find our place within and contribute to SDIA's Roadmap, such as within the Steering Groups on Extended Life Hardware and Standardization of IT Hardware.

Does OCP have any future plans we should look out for?

Along with sustainability, there are other key strategic initiatives set by our community which include integrated solutions, facility security, co-design of artificial intelligence (AI) hardware and software, as well as test and validation. You will begin to see an increased focus on security across all projects to create designs and specifications to enable software security for all information technology (IT) gear.

Additionally, you will see more channel partners join the OCP Solution Provider ecosystem. This is our reseller program focused on delivering OCP Accepted™ and OCP Inspired™ solutions to end users. As demand in the enterprise increases for OCP, we will also see more data center (DC) operators move toward certifying their facility as OCP Ready™. This DC certification program ensures that end users have a way to identify facilities optimised with OCP designs. This area has experienced significant growth and we expect to see this continue as more regional and global partners realize the value in delivering open infrastructure solutions.


Stay involved with OCPs latest news and updates by visting their website and following them on LinkedIn.

Inky Vos
Inky Vos
Inky is a sustainability scientist with a passion for spreading sustainable stories. At the SDIA she supports the Communications Team as Communications Coordinator.

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