• Search giant brings tech know-how to standardization efforts
  • Goal is to develop more cost-effective specifications

Facebook Inc. is gaining a powerful new ally -- Google -- in its quest to popularize low-cost systems to handle the massive amount of information flowing through corporate data centers.

Google said it joined the Open Compute Project, an initiative founded by the social-networking company five years ago to develop more affordable computer servers and standardize the technology. The effort has attracted Microsoft Corp. and other large data-center operators, manufacturers including Hyve Solutions Corp. and Wiwynn Corp., and cloud-computing providers such as Cumulus Networks Inc. and Rackspace Hosting Inc.

“Our goal was to say here are things we really believe are good for the industry,” said Urs Holzle, a senior vice president of technical infrastructure at Google. “It’s an opportunity to standardize.”

Google worked with Facebook to design a server enclosure, called a rack, that can work at a higher-than-typical 48 volts, which will let manufacturers pack more powerful chips into a future generation of data centers, Holzle said.

Industry Standards

Since its formation, the Open Compute Project has shared its specifications for servers, storage systems, networking equipment, power supply and the hardware needed to house these products. Riot Games, a Tencent Holdings Ltd. subsidiary behind the hit game League of Legends, has embraced servers based on the project’s designs. Fidelity and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. are also involved in the project.

The success of the initiative has also changed the fortunes of computer-component suppliers such as Quanta Computer Inc., which has been able to sell standardized servers to a larger number of customers.

Alphabet Inc.-subsidiary Google is well-known for developing its own advanced internal technology for running networks and data centers, while keeping its know-how under wraps. The company is now joining the Open Compute Project and sharing some of its expertise, such as moving to 48-volt power systems from 12 volts.

“We solved the problem, we have suppliers,” Holzle said. While there are some things that Google won’t reveal, he said “the open-source movement is great for things that are kind of non-competitive where everyone benefits from a standardized solution, but it’s not core to any one of our businesses.”

Facebook has “saved billions of dollars,” using the Open Compute Project’s designs, said Jay Parikh, vice president of engineering. Google’s ideas around power technology could be helpful for data centers as they try to pack more processors into denser spaces, he said.

Facebook also plans to announce new networking projects at the initiative’s summit in San Jose, California, this week, Parikh said. The company is evaluating a new memory technology from Intel Corp. called 3D XPoint, for possible inclusion in new designs, he said.