Facebook just fired four more shots into the belly of the $53 billion server market


Mark Zuckerberg

Stephen Lam/Reuters

In just six years, Facebook's Open Compute Project (OCP) has become a major phenom in the data center hardware industry that has attracted an almost cult-like following among engineers.


And on Wednesday, Facebook upped the bar yet again.

Facebook announced that it was giving away four new designs for brand-new types of computer servers invented at Facebook.

Anyone can take these designs, modify them and use them, with contract manufacturers standing by to build them.

Those contract manufacturers include Chinese companies ike Quanta, as well as the world's largest maker of computer servers, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise (HPE).


Better and cheaper

While Hewlett-Packard Enterprise has a chip in this Open Compute Project game, OCP's influence hasn't necessarily been a boon to the company. That's because OCP is to data center hardware what Linux is to software: open source. Engineers all collaborate freely on designs, with no intellectual property ownership barriers.

Microsoft Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Satya Narayana Nadella speaks at a live Microsoft event in the Manhattan borough of New York City, October 26, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Thomson Reuters

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella

The idea is simple: to help Facebook and other large-scale Internet cloud companies build faster, better, push-the-envelope hardware that costs less money than buying traditional servers from companies like HPE, Dell or Cisco.

And other big cloud providers, like Google and especially Microsoft, have been involved in OCP, using designs themselves and sharing some of their own tech innovations.

Apple, too, is involved, as is AT&T, Verizon, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, and many others. Meanwhile, Amazon and LinkedIn are also building their own infrastructure from scratch, if not from OCP designs, then from their own.

As businesses choose to use cloud-computing services instead of buying their own servers, and the internet companies build their own faster, cheaper servers, the server industry has begun to hurt. In 2016, revenue for the worldwide server market declined about 4% to just under $53 billion, according to market researcher IDC, in large part because of cloud computing and "declining high-end server sales," said IDC research director Kuba Stolarski.


This includes double-digit declines in revenue in the last half of 2016 for HPE.

Raising the bar

In many ways, Facebook's designs have been putting the professional hardware industry to shame, doing things with hardware that's never been done before.

Facebook Arlene Gabriana Murillo

LinkedIn/Arlene Gabriana Murillo

Facebook Arlene Gabriana Murillo

That's because people watch 100 million hours of video a day on Facebook; they post over 95 million photos and videos to Facebook and Instagram daily, and a good 400 million people now use voice and video chat every month on Messenger, Facebook tells us.

That kinds of usage puts incredible demands on the computer infrastructure. Facebook has been inventing new tech in response, and then giving away what it creates to OCP.

To that end, Facebook's technical program manager Arlene Gabriana Murillo announced these four new servers on Wednesday, which adds to and updates a handful of other servers it has already contributed to OCP. Take a look:


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