Can You 'Like' Facebook's Storage?

Curtis Franklin Jr., Executive Editor | 2/27/2012 | 19 comments

Curtis Franklin Jr.
Back in 1940, the US Army needed a vehicle. They put out an RFP, two companies (out of 130 invitees) responded, and the ultimate result was the Jeep. Roughly a million units later, the second world war had ended and a new "car" went from a single set of customers -- military organizations -- to one of the most recognizable multi-purpose vehicles in the world. It's amazing what a functional, low-cost design can do when it's let loose upon the world.

The basic philosophy of the Jeep, washed through the open-source software movement of the last 20 years, has given the industry the Open Compute Project, the process by which Facebook is designing and deploying the servers in its new datacenters and then giving those designs to the rest of the world. Now, the company has announced that it's moving past servers and datacenters into storage design, and the potential for market disruption seems great.

According to an article on, the design considerations for the Open Compute Project storage section extend down to the size and placement of screws in hot-swappable storage units. For enterprise customers, attention to storage, servers, and datacenters is almost certainly a good thing, but there are very real questions that can arise about the impact "open standard" hardware might have on competitive advantage and relationships with vendors.

We can admit from the beginning that very few enterprises are big enough to have a significant voice in the design of the hardware they purchase. In most cases, the advantage an enterprise can derive from a particular vendor's hardware boils down to how easy it is to configure systems in order to maximize support for software and support hardware.

If significant numbers of vendors begin offering Open Compute Project-derived designs, those basic advantages won't go away. The case can be made, in fact, that configuration, integration, and support will become even more critical in the Open Computer Project world because vendors will be able to devote more time to those aspects of a total system deployment.

When vendors are competing against one another on configuration, integration, and support, it will tend to strengthen relationships rather than weaken them, though Open Compute Project designs should help remove some of the "vendor lock-in" fear that takes a toll on many CIOs. Given that storage is one of the areas in which the basic building blocks are already reasonably well-standardized, Open Compute Project definitions will represent an extension of the current way of doing business, not a wholesale change in the industry business model.

We've already seen a bit of this evolutionary change in open projects like OpenStack, a cloud operating system being developed in an open model. Some vendors, such as Dell, have signed on to both projects (and others) to develop products that meet multiple design specs.

For enterprise customers, building new data centers may become a process of choosing a standard, working with a vendor on systems that meet the specs, then turning internal developers loose on applications and utilities that draw on the accumulated wisdom of the open community's participants. That is, indeed, a new model for data center rollout, but it's one that has real promise for reducing costs and increasing creativity and productivity. It's hard to see a lot of losers in the transition.

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batye   Can You 'Like' Facebook's Storage?   3/2/2012 5:33:10 AM
Re: Can You 'Like' Facebook's Storage?
I do not... trust...

this days rule of the IT game

trust no one

use your own storage with your own security

at your own risk...

from security point of view FB and Google could be a bigger more interesting target for a lone hacker (or group of hackers) 

compared to you using your own storage and firewall appliance...

as smaller taget would spark less interest....

Skr2011   Can You 'Like' Facebook's Storage?   2/29/2012 11:23:56 PM
Re: Can You 'Like' Facebook's Storage?
@ teke Here is the link to facebook storage. It is amazing what they are doing.
tekedge   Can You 'Like' Facebook's Storage?   2/28/2012 10:44:16 PM
Can You 'Like' Facebook's Storage?
My question would be, can we trust fb storage?. I would like to know what FB and Google do in terms of storage and how it measures up and compares to what the traditional storage companies offer. 
David Wagner   Can You 'Like' Facebook's Storage?   2/28/2012 4:19:49 PM
@Taimoor- I would be very surprised if Facebook started making or selling hardware of any kind in the next 10-20 years. They have no intellectual property around chips or hardware of any kind. They have no engineering team that I'm aware of that would make that possible in the future. They have no manufacturing partnerships in place.

They will diversify (perhaps into search, ads off of facebook, retail,or software development) but i just don't see that building that kind of capability being the easiest or most lucrative choice.
David Wagner   Can You 'Like' Facebook's Storage?   2/28/2012 4:16:38 PM
Re: Unless
I do think that the idea of a few standards in the way we think of datacenters will help you "rent" the jeep instead of own it. I look at it like leasing a car. You can have one cheaper if you lease, but you lock yourself into a few things-- having to worry about how much you use it, not breaking it, and what you're goign to do with it when the lease is up.

Plus, if you own, you can stretch the mileage until you can afford a new one. If you lease, you are locked into a new lease (or walking) in a few years.
eethtworkz   Can You 'Like' Facebook's Storage?   2/28/2012 3:31:45 PM

Quite right.

These are very real and serious issues at hand here.

But the egos involved in this case mean we could very well see a case of World Domination here.

eethtworkz   Can You 'Like' Facebook's Storage?   2/28/2012 3:28:33 PM
Re: does this mean facebook has commitment issues?

Its going mean hard-work for entrenched interests(and is'nt that the way things should be??)

After all,if you don't perform you perish.

Nobody said Competition(and especially in the online space) was non-existent today.

So why should'nt we see more competition here.It will most definitely result in good products and better service for all concerned.

eethtworkz   Can You 'Like' Facebook's Storage?   2/28/2012 3:24:57 PM
Re: Unless

This is very common behavior in most enterprises out there.

Its sad that very often the best products dont find widespread acceptance because of entrenched lobbies and interests.

Have you faced the issue yourself?

Taimoor Zubair   Can You 'Like' Facebook's Storage?   2/28/2012 12:06:29 PM
Re: Unless
I second that as well. I've seen numerous examples in my career where the vendors are given preferential treatment based on personal relations of the project stakeholders. But normally such a thing is taken pretty lightly within the organizations.
Taimoor Zubair   Can You 'Like' Facebook's Storage?   2/28/2012 11:53:07 AM
"but remember that Facebook isn't building or selling hardware"

Well I wouldn't be surprised if Facebook does plan to patent the storage hardware/software and start selling it. Could be a very useful diversification strategy.

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