Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?
Microsoft Cloud Hardware IT

Microsoft Joins Open Compute Project, Will Share Server Designs 90

1sockchuck writes "Microsoft has joined the Open Compute Project and will be contributing specs and designs for the cloud servers that power Bing, Windows Azure and Office 365. "We came to the conclusion that sharing these hardware innovations will help us accelerate the growth of cloud computing," said Kushagra Vaid, Microsoft's General Manager of Cloud Server Engineering. The company is also releasing its Chassis Manager software that manages its servers, fans and power, which which is now available on GitHub. "We would like to help build an open source software community within OCP as well," said Microsoft's Bill Laing. Microsoft's cloud server hardware is built around a 12U chassis that can house up to 24 server and storage blades, offering a different approach from the current Open Compute server and storage designs."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Microsoft Joins Open Compute Project, Will Share Server Designs

Comments Filter:
  • Cloud (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    "We came to the conclusion that sharing these hardware innovations will help us accelerate the growth of cloud computing,"

    I really don't get this so perhaps someone can explain: What benefit does this have for anybody?

    • It has benefit to Microsoft - a new line of products and services to sell. The bigger the hype the more they sell.
      • by hhw ( 683423 )
        This may very well backfire on Microsoft in two ways:
        1) Cloud environments are much less dependent on Windows than desktops, and favour open source like Linux or BSD
        2) If all applications become server side, then application compatibility on the desktop is no longer relevant, making the OS that desktop runs irrelevant

        Failure in Cloud is not an option for Microsoft, and the days of their lock-in are numbered.
        • Pushing for cloud doesn't mean that all applications become server-side. It means that some of the logic is there, as well as e.g. document/setting storage, but the app itself is native on whatever platform it's running on - including e.g. Win8 and WP8.

    • Re:Cloud (Score:5, Funny)

      by StripedCow ( 776465 ) on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @09:59AM (#46090213)

      I really don't get this so perhaps someone can explain: What benefit does this have for anybody?

      I guess it could be therapeutic for people with exceptional nostalgia towards the days of mainframe computing.

      • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )

        "I guess it could be therapeutic for people with exceptional nostalgia towards the days of mainframe computing."

        Actually cloud has a lot of benefits. Say you need to run DNA sequencing and you do not have a super computer of your own or do not want to manage a super computer. Just use a compute cloud.
        Even for storage it makes sense. You do do off site backups don't you?

        • Problem being "off site backups" are not the same as "cloud storage". My company has "off site backups" of our servers, both the server and off-site server are ours and under our control. Cloud storage is putting someone else in charge of your data. So yeah, you'll save money by outsourcing your IT staff and infrastructure to a cloud storage company, but when shit hits the fan you have no control over the servers you don't own. If cloud storage company X decides they need a higher payment to maintain your d
          • So yeah, you'll save money by outsourcing your IT staff and infrastructure to a cloud storage company, but when shit hits the fan you have no control over the servers you don't own.

            What do you mean "when the shit hits the fan"? I mean i'm familiar with the expression but if there is a catastrophic hardware failure then whether it's their hardware or your hardware doesn't really make any difference, but at least if it's their hardware then you would have a clause in your SLA for restitution.

            If cloud storage company X decides they need a higher payment to maintain your data, well you're kind of locked in and have to pay whatever they tell you too.

            How are you locked in? It's just data, back it up somewhere else instead.

            • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )

              It is called FUD. Slashdot is getting full of the tin foil hat crowd. One wonders what solution they would suggest for a small company that needs a 1000 node cluster to run one job a month?

        • I just hope you only use public data in that DNA sequencing. If you are keeping any of it secret (like, before applying for a patent), you'll have bad news.

          • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )

            Verses someone downloading it on a flash drive and walking out the door? Or maybe hacking your systems and getting the data?

            Seeing the average network security I have as more trust in Amazon cloud than I do in your average network.

    • Re:Cloud (Score:4, Informative)

      by Jade_Wayfarer ( 1741180 ) on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @10:06AM (#46090261)
      Well, for example, it's much easier for third parties (*cough* NSA *cough*) to obtain user's data in bulk from one "cloud service" than from dozens/hundreds/thousands of workstations or SBS's.
    • Re:Cloud (Score:5, Interesting)

      by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @10:13AM (#46090295) Homepage

      Additional customer lock-in. Personally, I would like to see a service which (may already exist, please tell me if it does) where I can host my own data at home and then have various forms of access to it from my phone or laptop or tablet or whatever. It should not require a static or known/named dynamic IP address. I like the idea of a relay server out there on the internet which enables the two peers to connect whether behind a firewall or not. VPN linking to my home network would be a nice addition maybe.

      So who's got something like this for free?

      • Re:Cloud (Score:5, Informative)

        by rwise2112 ( 648849 ) on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @10:18AM (#46090329)
        Sounds like what OwnCloud [owncloud.org] does, but I don't know all the details of how it works.
        • Except you own and manage the hardware, so it's not "the cloud". Their entire premise is a misnomer.
        • by Reapman ( 740286 )

          Yup, but when I tried out OwnCloud I had some issues with file corruption. When I investigated a few months back it was a bit of a known thing, and a lot of comments were make sure your making backups, it's not fully ready yet, etc. Shame as it was really what I wanted. Might be better now.

      • by Shados ( 741919 )

        I don't know about free, but a ton of vendors have "personal cloud" offerings now. Western Digital network drives all have that kind of stuff now, basically all the consumer grade NAS devices do, complete with all the iphone/android apps to access it Dropbox-style and crap.

        I'd be surprised if there isn't an open source stack that does it too, since the bundled hardware offerings are always a bit behind.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        You have described what my Synology disc station does (i've got the ds213j). Long story short, it's a linux box with a repo of cool stuff that people have hacked out for it.

        I'm currently running mine as 'cloud' storage as well as hosting a django site, and have plans to make it my crash plan destination soon.

      • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )

        But that would not give you an offsite back up.

        And yes you can do it now over XMPP. http://socialvpn.wordpress.com... [wordpress.com]
        It sucks that Google is dropping XMPP. I wish they had kept it

      • by LDAPMAN ( 930041 )

        Try Filr from Novell. It's pretty amazing. It won't solve the dynamic DNS issues but it does allow access to your data and uses the ACLs you set on your server. It's likely overkill for one person but it works well for my small company.
        http://www.novell.com/products... [novell.com]

        • by cusco ( 717999 )

          Novell still exists? Even Firefox sees 'Novell' as a misspelling of 'noel'.

          • by LDAPMAN ( 930041 )

            Yep, they still exist. All the Identity and Security products moved over to NetIQ. The other infrastructure products are still with Novell.

      • Ironically, this is exactly what I use Microsoft's own Skydrive for:

        http://windows.microsoft.com/e... [microsoft.com]

        Its free as in beer, but sadly, the host box has to be Windows so it might not be what you are looking for.

    • Ask IBM. They make money hand over fist by charging people for the amount of processing power they use. The rates are extraordinarily high. You can reduce the cost by buying specialized processors for Linux, Java, etc, which are also incredibly expensive. There's a lot of money to be made by people if they can get people not stuck on the old mainframes to buy into the same trap.

    • by TheLink ( 130905 )

      It benefits them?

      Most of these companies don't make much money from the server hardware. And they'd benefit more from better server hardware. So it's better for them to share info so that server hardware improves as fast as possible.

      Microsoft might have joined the party late because they had some concerns over whether potential customers might build their own hardware, datacenters and thus not use Microsoft's Azure stuff. But given that OpenComputer is already out there with decent designs, I doubt them sta

    • The 'cloud' business will see a lot more embracing of 'open source' and sharing because the business is not so dependent on them.

      Microsoft's play in cloud service is going to be based on its business clout, huge cash balance to spend on infrastructure, integration and management overlays...

      None of this depends on the underlying technologies of the servers in the farms. It is in everyone's best interest to share whatever designs and optimizations they can in this area. Maybe a new design for cooling comes ou

  • Which one is this? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @09:51AM (#46090161)

    Embrace, extend or extinguish? Which part are we on now?

    • Without Billy G, I don't think they're capable of that anymore.
    • OK, I'll bite. Here's my "devil's advocacy".

      Isn't Microsoft the company that made billions selling software (and now services) on a very popular open platform, the PC? So, maybe there's no evil agenda here (say it isn't so!): maybe it's as simple as opening up something they don't plan to sell - server hardware designs - in order to reduce costs by increasing economies of scale, or to get the benefits of free improvements from the community. (Hey, I thought you folks liked that kind of thing...) Put in

  • by d33tah ( 2722297 ) on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @09:55AM (#46090199)
    I'm surprised to actually find that they chose Apache License for the project instead of their GPL-incompatible MS-PL. I have no idea what Chassis Manager is actually useful for (and a skeptic inside of me tells me that probably nothing unless you pay for their other products), but it's interesting to see that they actually released 36k lines of code as free software.
    • They have to... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      MS sees an overwhelming trend of Linux oriented software for operations management. They don't have the same mountain of people working to do similar stuff but with .Net. They want that mountain of companies and people building an ecosystem around .Net, but it's not happening naturally. MS has only the hope of putting out there and hoping to prime the pump.

    • by buchner.johannes ( 1139593 ) on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @10:24AM (#46090361) Homepage Journal

      I doubt this is really a Microsoft business decision. It's written by one person, and he is perhaps enthusiastic about open source (PhD student at PSU). His supervisor probably okayed it. Just because some division of MS does that, doesn't mean the top of the hierarchy decided/steered this decision.

      • Actually, most (all?) Microsoft open source projects these days are released under Apache License 2.0, and even the stuff that was previously under MS-PL or other custom licenses has been relicensed to AL (in particular, ASP.NET MVC made a doing so a few years ago). [arstechnica.com]

        All Azure SDKs (.NET, Java, PHP, Python, Ruby, node.js) are also under AL and on GitHub [github.io]. So is TypeScript (the open sourced parts - i.e. the compiler, not the IDE support). So are Python and Node.js Tools for Visual Studio.

        I can't actually think

    • by LDAPMAN ( 930041 ) on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @12:17PM (#46091259)

      Sorry but infrastructure management software will not have wide acceptance with a GPL license. It would also not make much headway with MS-PL. If you actually want it to be used then it has to be BSD/Apache.

  • by Junta ( 36770 ) on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @10:01AM (#46090239)

    So many to choose from. On the hardware side, they didn't like the current hardware design that Facebook liked (with good reason) and so provided an entirely different set of design sensibilities. This isn't about enhanced standardization, this is about a nice-sounding venue by which to deliver requirements to bidders for MS datacenter equipment. I will say at first glance, I like MS's requirements better than Facebook requirements. The points that I'd worry about would be firmware requirements (MS tends to get insane with network protocols) and the unique IO design which limits the market of compliant equipment (basically, the same that can be said of IBM bladecenter, flex, Dell M1000, etc etc).

    On the software side, you'll note that it's in .Net. It's very much not in the realm of typical open source datacenter operations projects. MS once again is stuck having to build the infrastructure themselves for lack of a wider community using their tooling for the purposes MS needs. Of course, MS has historically impressed me with how well they manage to do while being a 'lone wolf'.

    • Of course, MS has historically impressed me with how well they manage to do while being a 'lone wolf'.

      I would think that almost everyone is a lone wolf when it comes to highly specialized server designs. Google's servers [cnet.com] are designed to highly efficient in terms of space and power consumption. While they use an x86 architecture, the custom servers also have individual battery backups instead of a rack level UPS. While not many details are known about the motherboards (except that they are made by Gigabyte), it looks to me that they have stripped out all unnecessary parts like extra USB ports, extra SATA

  • by bazmail ( 764941 ) on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @10:10AM (#46090279)
    The world has moved on. Sorry MS.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    It looks like the skeleton of code to put into 'firmware' of the chassis manager. This suggests they believe the chassis manager should be running Windows as the embedded solution... Holy shit what a terrible idea for a standard, the cost of the module would increase to start with (a hardware design for that role runs 40-50 bucks, moving to atom doubles that) and the cost of the OS to run on top of it would be more than the hardware cost total.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Every single time it the same with these guys.
    They arrive late to the party, but when they do they bring with them their own music CDs.
    Its like the arrival of the vaguely creepy older guy who likes to hang around younger people.
    Nobody's got the nerve to turf them out, but at the same time nobody wants to interact with them either.
    Later on, everyone says how creep-guy's arrival ruined the party.
    While creepy-guy's telling everyone who will listen how awesome it was.

  • by Connie_Lingus ( 317691 ) on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @10:43AM (#46090483) Homepage

    this isn't your father's Microsoft.

  • An Azure Cloud (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DickBreath ( 207180 ) on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @11:14AM (#46090699) Homepage
    Azure is the bluish color [wikipedia.org] #007FFF.

    An Azure Cloud is the suffocating bluish smoke belched out by an engine that is reaching the end of it's useful life.

    Microsoft is courting Linux workloads to run on their bluish smoke servers. Why would someone who has a business application that runs on Linux want to trust that to a company that has tried to destroy Linux and open source and is actively continuing to do so to this very day?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Slashdot itself is suffocating bluish smoke.... The rest of the world is moving on...

    • Dude, it is a long time since the 1990s. Wake up.
  • by wertigon ( 1204486 ) on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @11:18AM (#46090733)

    Ah, I remember when Microsoft did the same thing with the OpenGL ARB and more or less poisoned it, leaving OpenGL for dead once they had completed their mission. Also, W3C, Java and pretty much every other standard group they've sabotaged^H joined usually end up the same way.

    So forgive me if I see this as yet another attempt at killing off open standards.

    More reading [vanwensveen.nl]

    • Microsoft was also on the consortium to develop H.264 and then they almost ruined it and coincidentally created their own video standard that was kind of like it. This was also about the time that DivX got started and I'd be curious how many algorithms it "borrowed."

      I think it's kind of a risk to let them partner with a group they have a vested interest in destroying, given their track record. Who knows, maybe they've changed, maybe they haven't.

    • The 'standard' is in a non-sabotaged state already. 'Open'Compute was mostly Facebook saying 'this is the right way to address the only requirements that matter (Facebook's). Now MS managed to get their word in and it just gets slipped in, without the slightest hint of trying to reach a consensus on anything.

      OpenCompute has been full of either things uselessly specific to one user's needs or alternatively useless problem statements that are blatantly obvious without a hint of a proposed solution.


  • by ErichTheRed ( 39327 ) on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @11:47AM (#46090975)

    Microsoft isn't giving their server designs away out of the goodness of their hearts. They have a huge interest in getting people to move their workloads to Azure. The first step for most places has to be getting them off of VMWare or KVM onto Hyper-V/Windows Server. Next step is convincing enterprises to buy these whitebox server designs to save money on their on-premises stuff. Finally they'll make Azure too good a deal to pass up for the CIO crowd with the usual argument that you can fire most of your IT department. It's already super-easy to publish your applications right from Visual Studio to Azure...again, not an accident.

    I actually think the whitebox design method is a good thing...IF...you have a dedicated staff working 24/7 to repair/replace sickly boxes, and the workload is such that a box is a box is a box. This works perfectly for large scale web apps backed by a SAN, or hypervisor hosts. It doesn't work as well for standalone application stacks that have semi-permanent physical server dependencies. Renting 3 servers in the cloud doesn't make as much sense as renting 3,000.

    My company does a lot of standalone deployments of applications around the world, in places where network connectivity doesn't permit easy cloud access. It's getting harder to find vendors who aren't trying to steer us to the cloud. Microsoft is making it very difficult to purchase perpetual licenses of software, with the price of a negotiated Software Assurance deal being set less than the equivalent one time license fee [1]. Now that IBM just bailed out of the x86 server market, HP is pretty much the only vendor left making decent hardware for non-cloud applications.

    I totally get why AWS, Azure and public clouds make sense. When you're running the back-end for an iPhone app, and need 40,000 web servers all cranking out the same content, it makes sense to rent that. But a lot of companies don't seem to get that it's more expensive to do the cloud thing if the servers are going to be permanent and you're hosting one of those boring line-of-business apps. Hopefully people will realize this before the last decent x86 server vendor quits selling non-cloud-optimized servers.

    [1] Licensing SQL Server on multi-socket physical boxes is insanely expensive now compared to VMs. I had to add ESXi to our solution for a recent deployment just to save thousands of dollars on the database license for a low-powered app.

    • by Junta ( 36770 )

      Facebook didn't manage to 'get rid of the rest of the hardware' market, and an incompatible Microsoft addition to it won't. The specifications in this case are pretty damn tightly coupled to microsoft (an x86 SoC to run windows in an embedded context, active directory being a hard requirement, and others).

      Now that IBM just bailed out of the x86 server market, HP is pretty much the only vendor left making decent hardware for non-cloud applications.

      They sold it to Lenovo. IBM's PC share at the time of sale to lenovo was trivial. Lenovo turned that business around to dramatic effect. As much as some people bitch and moan and look for fault, Lenovo

  • by nimbius ( 983462 ) on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @12:15PM (#46091233) Homepage
    I dont know if anyones used Azure but my boss made me find a reason to shoehorn it into the infrastructure because microsoft swore our 25k in free credit for it was tied neatly to our license discount for Windows. it is a clusterfuck of unworkable web 2.0 line and symbol bullshit that is easily outranked and outclassed by even the most entry-level hosting providers in ease of use. heres a rundown of my experience:

    1. signup. microsoft juggles you between 3 different portals, all of which basically mandate internet explorer, and a username with a microsoft TLD. now that im boatanchored to the rest of the redmond world, we can continue to provisioning?
    2. no. now you have to apply for a service and confirm the subscription in email. what this means, i mean on a technical level, god only knows. its some ephemeral obfuscation imbued in the product to impart a sense of legitimacy in the process of your virtual cloud experience no doubt.
    3. we have a subscription and now we can start provisioning images. you have about 10 different microsoft images and 2 linux images sanctioned by some third party entity no ones ever heard of. Linux VM's require a goofy disclaimer but come with a package selection feature, so i guess thats useful.
    4. Windows or Linux, youve made your choice, and youre provisioning nicely but beware: navigating away from the provisioning page will cause the process to stop.
    5. Whatever lofty dreams you had about microsofts commitment to cloud and scaleable architecture as a departure from their haggared burro of licensed OS and direct attached storage becomes an afterthought. Microsoft (as they did me) emails you stating they improperly provisioned your VM in the wrong datacenter and that you, not them, are now responsible for the fix. this requires you delete your entire VM and start over again.

    6. you stare into the internet, your limit break clearly reached, and observe an ocean of other more capable and well established providers and players in this world of virualized SaaS and PaaS. the interface is clean, the support is in plain fucking english, and if you arent hounded to tie your active directory to it. the thought that anyone, or any group for that matter, would stop to give two shits in an open consortium of existing sucessful and dedicated players to consider an offering from a software company that for its entire existence has sought nothing but ruthless destruction of every other open standard in the world, is bad comedy.

    to microsoft: no one cares, and I mean this in all sincerity. its not a troll or a flame its just a sad fact. your designs, your servers and your processes and procedures contextualized historically in their offering to the open anything community have been a complete farce. this isnt your cup of tea and it never has been. You're completely outnumbered, hopelessly outgunned, and the best you can do is peddle lock-in to traditionalist business models sadly manacled in mediocrity. Look at your phones, tablets, zunes, and everything youve fought so hard to make a part of the world thats forsaken you and just stop shoveling time and money into strategies you're laughably unqualified to adopt.
    • by CodeInspired ( 896780 ) on Tuesday January 28, 2014 @03:40PM (#46093459)
      I've used Azure extensively. My experience greatly differs.

      1. You just need a Microsoft Account. It can be created with any email address and not necessarily a Microsoft TLD. There is nothing specific to IE. The entire process can be done with Firefox.

      2. It is not unreasonable to have to verify a new subscription via email. This is common place in environments where security is rather important.

      3. The fact that you have Linux as an option is rather surprising. Azure is primarily a Windows cloud computing environment which a very large group of businesses are interested in. If you're looking to deploy an enterprise cluster of Linux servers and services, you're probably in the wrong place.

      4. Seriously? Why would you navigate away from a "provisioning your server" processing dialog? You didn't have an extra browser tab to peruse Slashdot with?

      5. I've never seen this occur, but I'll take your word for it. If it was a mistake, then they clearly deserve some criticism. But are you suggesting you want them to provision your new server for you? Do you expect them to be logging every configuration change you made so they can reproduce every thing you did on another server instance in another datacenter? I'll concede that this is an unfortunate error on their part, but honestly, you can delete and re-create servers with a few clicks of the mouse.

      6. There is not "an ocean" of more capable cloud computing environments available. Particularly if you are have strong ties to a Windows environment. Active Directory is included in all of the subscriptions for free. Use it if you want, or ignore it. It's your choice.

      Your rhetoric is the only thing that is "bad comedy" here. Like it or not, MS has a pretty successful enterprise software business. I don't see how them sharing some of their insights into this industry as anything but a positive for the open source community. Or do you believe their massive research investments should be kept under lock and key? Or maybe you believe that a huge team of talented engineers has absolutely NOTHING to contribute to OCP because the company they work for has produced a few unsuccessful products. Either way, I think attitudes like yours are detrimental.
      • The fact that you have Linux as an option is rather surprising. Azure is primarily a Windows cloud computing environment which a very large group of businesses are interested in. If you're looking to deploy an enterprise cluster of Linux servers and services, you're probably in the wrong place.

        It's not at all surprising, and yes, Linux is a supported option [windowsazure.com], and MS will hook you up with companies that provide support for that kind of configuration.

        Azure was MS- and Windows-specific a few years ago, but it tries hard not to be that anymore. It's not just about Windows vs Linux, but also e.g. making SDKs for many programming languages on many different platforms [github.io]. Then there's stuff like cloud backends for mobile platforms [windowsazure.com], which includes iOS and Android support.

        Granted, most people who go to Azure

  • Trust but Verif--

    On second thought; fuck that: never trust Microsoft, F/OSS folk!
  • Upon joining, Microsoft's first official contribution was a comprehensive list of over 1100 Anti-patterns that are proven to stifle even the best open computing initiatives.

All science is either physics or stamp collecting. -- Ernest Rutherford