Free as in Beer: Open Standards for Server and Data Center Design and Management

Free as in Beer: Open Standards for Server and Data Center Design and Management

In a recent post, we introduced many of our readers to our MegaRAC line of remote management products. A portion of that post was also devoted to the importance of standards and communication protocols in server and data center design and management.

Today we will start to take a closer look at some of those standards - and the different organizations who create and support them. Our focus will be on the push for so-called "open standards" in server component design and management. We will examine some of the key factors driving the need for open standards, as well as their application in designing and managing data centers and other hyperscale environments where large numbers of server systems are in use. Beyond this, over the next few weeks we plan to continue this theme by publishing a series of posts looking more closely at individual open standards and the interest groups and industry forums committed to promoting their adoption.

As discussed in the post referenced above, American Megatrends is a member of key industry consortiums such as the Distributed Management Task Force (DMTF), Open Compute Forum, Open Power Forum and Open Data Center Committee, among others. Notably, three out of the four organizations mentioned here (as their names suggest) promote open standards, whether it is for the standardization of hardware components, communication protocols, power management and the like.

From our perspective and years of experience, there are several key factors driving the push for open standards in server and data center design and management. To anyone familiar with the cost and complexity of purchasing, servicing and managing heterogenous server, power and cooling equipment in a typical server room or data center, it is no surprise that the major drivers are cost, simplicity, efficiency, uniformity and interoperability. The importance of these needs are supported not only by the experiences of AMI but the experiences of leading server manufacturers and customers like Facebook, Google, Apple, Intel, AMD and others.

For those who support open standards for server design and management, it is clear that inspiration for their support comes from a specific and proven concept, namely the open software movement. Experience with using and contributing to open software projects clearly shows that the community effort behind a project makes it stronger and more robust, with the power of the crowd contributing innovation and ideas based on real-world, tested experience. This is expressed very clearly in a statement on the website of the Open Compute Community, which writes that "The success of the Internet and the open source movement has shown us that it isn’t about finding one solution that fits everywhere, or designing a monolithic stack to do everything. It’s about getting a variety of options to work well together to better address particular needs."

The expression "free, as in beer" is a phrase heard often about open technologies and standards. As the expression implies, they are indeed available at no cost to interested parties - and their development and support is also done without remuneration by committed individuals. This work is viewed as a necessary labor of love by many committed engineers and software developers and one of its most important benefits is that this approach helps keep development cost down. Particularly in the case of server design, experienced individuals are sharing their hard-won lessons and putting these practical, road-tested ideas into the design with respect to operating costs as well.

For AMI, our participation reflects our experience of the opportunities that arise for MegaRAC when we participate in open standards to make our products and management tools even more robust and widespread. Because MegaRAC products are involved at nearly every level of server and data center management – managing compute, storage and power assets as well as individual system components such as backplanes, drive LEDs, cooling fans and system health, performing status checks, updates and so many other critical activities related to the successful and efficient operation across the entire spectrum of data center operations - we have a stake or a vested interest in nearly every open standard for server design and management available today.

What are your thoughts on the future of open standards for server and datacenter design and management? Do you have any suggestions for any particular open standards you would like us to explore further in upcoming posts on this blog? Drop us a line via social media or our Contact Us form and let us know and as always, thanks for reading!


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