This is a guest blog from Joe Skorupa
There has been a lot of coverage of the latest Open Compute announcements by Facebook, Google and Microsoft. Some saw these announcements as a major shift by the industry towards open source data center hardware and software, leading to the ultimate downfall for incumbent vendors. But I believe it’s much more basic – These Web Giants just want to be seen as “Cool!”
When I look at the announcements I see:
- Facebook’s “next generation” data center will be OCP based, but dates are vague and there are still lots of missing pieces in OCP. A threat to folks like Arista, Cisco, Citrix, and Juniper at some point? Sure. A tectonic shift in the industry – not so much.
- Google contributes its 48 volt power design. Solid engineering but hardly revolutionary and not something mainstream folks will or can adopt anytime soon.
- Microsoft contributes SoNIC switch software based upon Linux and SAI. It suits Microsoft’s agenda of making all switch ASICs look the same by providing a layer of abstraction. Good for volume purchases of switches at the lowest price but not for mainstream enterprises that aren’t into the DIY thing yet. And Microsoft announced it won’t distribute or support SoNIC nor did it reveal how widely it is deployed within Azure.
So, why are these companies making these contributions? To generate press coverage to aid in recruiting. Simply put, these guys are heavily dependent upon being to hire a steady stream of brilliant engineers to design, build and operate their hyperscale data centers (and these folks don’t grow on trees). Meanwhile, these companies are doing a ton of other cool things, but they can’t/won’t publicly disclose these high-value projects because they’re trade secrets.
So, how do you generate buzz that says your place is the cool one to work for? Simple – Announce technologies and initiatives that generate coverage in a press that is hungry for a story. Just make sure the announcement sounds impressive, but discloses nothing of any significant strategic value.
And why these three companies? Google used to epitomize cool, but Facebook gained cool ground with an IPO and OCP PR barrage. Microsoft is too mainstream for most of the cool hipsters, and has to compete with AWS for talent in Seattle and beyond.
So, who wasn’t there? AWS and Apple are conspicuous by their absence. So, either they are already cool, or just playing it cool. Open Compute Project, or Open Cool Project? I’ll let you decide.
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