Some of the world’s largest datacentre operators are trying to use their influence in getting server design changed to save on costs, according to a report from analyst 451 Research.
The Open Compute Project (OCP), a user-led organisation whose members include Facebook, Goldman Sachs and NTT Data, wants to see the core components of system design, including processor, motherboard and networking interconnects, “disaggregated” so they can be upgraded independently.
The scheme is in marked contrast to the current industry trend of converged systems combining servers, storage and networking into a single system.
"Convergence", or complete integrated systems, has gained some traction with customers in recent years, says 451 Research, due to the relative ease and speed of deployment that pre-integrated systems enable. But there are trade-offs in terms of cost and vendor lock-in.
For the largest datacentres, says the report, buying systems at a more granular component layer promises "more flexibility, higher density and significant cost reductions".
John Abbott, an analyst at 451 Research, said: “Current monolithic designs can’t easily be customised to fit specific workload requirements or to maximise efficiency.
“And customers can’t, for instance, take advantage of the latest high performance CPU without having to upgrade surrounding technologies that are still operating well.”
The report comes after OCP’s recent unveiling of two key projects to kick-start disaggregation - low-latency interconnects using silicon photonics for linking components at both the motherboard and the rack layer; and a new common slot architecture that should enable fully vendor-neutral motherboards to remain in use through multiple processor generations.
Chip giant Intel has contributed its silicon photonics technology, and the Taiwanese systems maker Quanta has built a prototype to prove the concept out.
The report says smaller customers could also eventually benefit from the OCP's pressure, with cheaper and more flexible systems to run their data centres.
The proposed move from converged systems will be discussed at 451's forthcoming Hosting and Cloud Transformation Summit in London on 10 April.