What Open Source Hardware Is

Most of us are familiar with open-source or open-source software but recently open hardware (or open-source hardware) has created a buzz.

Open hardware is a set of design principles, blueprints and specifications to build efficient and cost-effective hardware.

Facebook, partnered with several major hardware players, have been working with a new organization named the Open Compute Project foundation that has taken an open-source hardware initiative.

Open Compute Project

The Open Compute Project (http://www.opencompute.org) began at Facebook with the problem of how to scale its computing infrastructure in the most efficient and economical way possible. Two years of work resulted in new hardware (custom-designed servers, power supplies, server racks and battery backup systems) that was not only customizable but also was more efficient and used 38% less energy and cost 24% less. Later, Facebook decided to make it an open project and hand it over to the open community to collaborate and make it better.

Open Compute Project is broken down into the following three major categories.

Server Technology

Open Compute servers are designed to be efficient, inexpensive and easy to service. They're also vanity-free, with no extra plastic and significantly fewer parts than traditional servers. 

Companies including AMD, ARM and Intel have built OCP specification-compliant systems.

A Facebook and AMD combined team has also developed an OCP spefication based system, System On a Chip, or SOC. SOC is a micro-server built on a PCIe-like card that hosts the SOC, dynamic memory for the SOC and a storage device. This micro-server can be installed in slots on a baseboard. The baseboard provides power distribution and control, BMC management capabilities and network distribution. The baseboard may or may not be plugged into a midplane. 

Storage Technology

The Open Vault is a simple and cost-effective storage solution with a modular I/O topology that's built for the Open Rack. The Open Vault offers high disk densities, holding 30 drives in a 2U chassis and can operate with nearly any host server. Its innovative, expandable design puts serviceability first, with easy drive replacement no matter the mounting height.

Data Center Technology

Designed in tandem with our servers, the data center maximizes mechanical performance and thermal and electrical efficiency. It accepts 277 volts of AC, so more energy makes it from the grid to the data center to server components.


Open hardware has a promise to change the way we build and use hardware technologies. Currently, the project has saved millions for companies like Facebook and Rackspace.