Microsoft Finalizing 'Project Olympus' for Open Compute Project

Microsoft is preparing to release the second version of its Open CloudServer design for use with the the Open Compute Project (OCP). Dubbed “Project Olympus,” it lives up to its Goliath namesake by boasting significant improvements over its predecessor.

OCP: the Basics

Before we delve into the details of Microsoft's new Project Olympus, let's first discuss the OCP infrastructure. First announced in April 2011 by Facebook engineer Jonathan Heiliger, the Open Compute Project (OCP) is an organization that's focused on creating standardized, universal data center configurations. The configurations are uploaded to a public respiratory where they are accessed and used by other organizations.

The OCP is currently listed as a non-profit organization, with its headquarters located in Delaware. Corey Bell is the OCP's Chief Executive Officer, but there are also more than half a dozen other members who serve on the organization's board of directors

According to the OCP website, it has data center designs from some of the world's biggest tech and Informations Technology (IT) companies, including Facebook, Intel, Nokia, Microsoft, Seagate Technology, Dell, Rackspace, Ericsson, Cisco, Goldman Sachs, Fidelity, Lenovo, and Bank of America. Facebook, for instance, uses OCP designs for all of its data centers, including those in Prineville, Forest City, Altoona, and Lulea.

The OCP's primary mission objective is to design and enable effective and efficient server/data center designs, with a focus on scalable computing. By using the designs provided by OCP, organizations can grow and expand their IT operations more easily – without the growth pains experienced by so many other organizations.

Project Olympus

Microsoft made headlines this Halloween by announcing the second generation of its OCP Open CloudServer design. In the blog post, Kushagra Vaid, GM of Azure Hardware Infrastructure, unveiled Microsoft's Project Olympus, citing the project as a “significant moment” in open-source hardware development on the cloud.

Vaid explains that while open-source projects have become more and more commonplace in the past few years, it continues to suffer from key restraints. Open-source hardware, for instance, is not as agile as its open-source software counterpart, limiting its use among organizations, both big and small. Most organizations wait until their hardware design configuration is ready for deployment before sharing it with others. And conventional wisdom should tell that you options are limited at best if an organizations waits until its hardware design is production-ready before making it open source. Furthermore, Microsoft says this delays development, limits community engagement, and slows down delivery.

To counter this problematic trend, Microsoft has collaborated with the OCP to introduce an new open-source server design. Known as Project Olympus, it uses the open-source collaboration model to build and improve upon its existing framework. Vaid explains that Microsoft is sharing its designs when they are just 50% complete, which is in stark contrast to the majority of other organizations who wait until their designs are 90-100% complete before sharing them.

By sharing designs before they are ready for deployment, Microsoft is encouraging the community to offer suggestions and feedback for improvement. Community members can download and modify design changes, embracing its open-source infrastructure.

We're taking a very different approach by contributing our next generation cloud hardware designs when they are approx. 50% complete - much earlier in the cycle than any previous OCP project. By sharing designs that are actively in development, Project Olympus will allow the community to contribute to the ecosystem by downloading, modifying, and forking the hardware design just like open source software," explained Kushagra Vaid, general manager of Azure Hardware Infrastructure.

You can access Project Olympus by checking out the official OCP GitHub at https://github.com/opencomputeproject/Project_Olympus. Here, you can access the designs and its respective subdirectories, all of which are licensed under the OWFa1.0 license. The page currently offers hardware and software specifications, and hardware collateral (e.g. schematic and board files). In the future, you can expect to find complete specifications for the project's motherboard and server assembly. Microsoft also plans to share more details about Project Olympus while presenting at the Datacenter Dynamics: Zettastructure in London later this month.

Of course, Microsoft isn't the only big name who's signed on with the OCP. Google has also announced plans to publish open-source designs on the OCP in collaboration with Facebook. The design will consist of a 48V server rack for use in cloud-based data centers.

Cloud computing has become a hot topic among IT organizations and professionals. While most companies leverage the cloud by choosing an existing cloud-based service provider, others act as providers themselves. But in order to create a functional cloud-based data center, a CSP must use an appropriate design, which is where the OCP and its respective designs comes into play: CSPs can download and use server designs like Project Olympus to create an efficient and scalable environment.

In other related news, Microsoft is now offering up to 10 years backup retention for users of its Azure AQL Database. Loss of data is a serious problem among IT organizations. And while there are countless different backup solutions available to protect against such disaster, many of them are expensive and/or highly technical to implement. On the same day it announced Project Olympus, Microsoft also announced plans to offer backup from 35 days to 10 years in its Azure Backup Service Vault. This offering is currently in previous mode, however, but users are encouraged to try it.

What do you think of Microsoft's Project Olympus?

Thanks for reading and feel free to let us know your thoughts in the comments below regarding Project Olympus.