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Open Hardware Is Like Linux: True Or False?
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Lorna Garey
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Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
1/31/2014 | 10:05:42 AM
WIld card
Charlie - Out-there thought: Could 3D printing advance to the point where owners of very large datacenters and/or nimble specialty suppliers create the bulk of this open-source hardware, needing only to drop in specialized silicon?
Drew Conry-Murray
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Drew Conry-Murray,
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1/31/2014 | 10:22:51 AM
Re: WIld card
I was wondering about that too. We'd need to see some significant advancement in 3D printing, but it seems like it's in the realm of the possible.
Lorna Garey
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Lorna Garey,
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1/31/2014 | 10:36:34 AM
Re: WIld card
Big advances are coming. At a recent holiday party I broke all etiquette rules by spending the entire dinner talking to the guy on my left, engineer for a company that makes cameras modeled after a fly's eye. These cameras (in theory) will be able to photograph any object in 3D and produce a pattern for 3D printing. Exciting stuff, unless you're a patent holder.
HowardMarks
IW Pick
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HowardMarks,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/31/2014 | 1:41:40 PM
Re: WIld card
Lorna,

 

That would require several advances in 3D printing.  Today's 3D printers spit plastic or sinter metal.

The 3D printer you're thinking of would need to be able to work with several materials:
  • Something strong enough for the rack itself that has to hold 300 pounds or more of contents
  • Something conductive enough to carry the power through the buss bars
  • something insulating enough to cover the buss bars and other conductors

and that's just for the rack assuming the power supplies are slid in. making the power supply, motherboard or fans would be a huge advance in 3D printing
Lorna Garey
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Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
1/31/2014 | 2:29:22 PM
Re: WIld card
Thanks Howard. So I guess customers printing their own servers is ONE less thing Dell, HP, etc. need to worry about for now.
ChrisMurphy
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ChrisMurphy,
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1/31/2014 | 3:48:16 PM
Re: WIld card
Is there also a different appeal for people in Linux than in hardware? So much of the tone I pick up around the Open Compute project is drive down hardware cost, automate data centers, make the hardware a commodity -- is that going to motivate engineers in the same way open source software projects have? I'm not an engineer, so feel free to take me inside that engineer brain and tell me why this is exactly why people will want to spend their free time volunteering on this kind of initiative.
Lorna Garey
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Lorna Garey,
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1/31/2014 | 4:30:21 PM
Re: WIld card
It's never wise to underestimate how much engineers like standards.
jgherbert
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jgherbert,
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1/31/2014 | 11:53:52 PM
Re: WIld card
@Lorna Garey: "It's never wise to underestimate how much engineers like standards."

 

Ooh, interesting. Standards or features? Cisco for example has for years made a habit of taking a standard and enhancing it for (as they see it) a better end result for their users. The standards often catch up later. Is there a danger that the same could end up happening here?

 
jagibbons
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jagibbons,
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2/1/2014 | 9:10:29 AM
Re: WIld card
Standards will always emerge, and hardware standards create lock-in in the absense of multiple competitors. Scale is also a challenge with hardware. Even if you had options to tinker with the parts, there are fixed costs in setting up manufacturing. Those components don't get cheaper without large production runs.
jgherbert
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jgherbert,
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2/1/2014 | 12:48:40 PM
Re: WIld card
And then there are standards created by Reference Designs, say. Build this and it will work for sure, but that doesn't make it the only way to build the system. Will you still see huge divergence for cost or performance gains, and thus move away from the very standardized architecture you wanted to create?
jagibbons
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jagibbons,
User Rank: Ninja
2/1/2014 | 1:17:47 PM
Re: WIld card
Once you're down a road where all of your widgets have to fit one kind of connector, whether it was "open source" or not, there's now a cost to change the connector to adapt to a different design of a widget. Perhaps simplistic, but physical hardware connectivity doesn't seem as easy to modify and morph over time like software.
Li Tan
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Li Tan,
User Rank: Ninja
2/3/2014 | 1:48:29 AM
Re: WIld card
I agree - the hardware will take longer time to morph than hardware. You cannot simply ask your customer to abolish the old and legacy hardware in one night. There is ROI and payback period issue for hardware investment. The connector is especially a difficult thing to handle - the interface of various hardware pieces will not get fit to each other without step-by-step evolution. The Open Hardware is a good idea but it won't prevail in the short term. 
Lorna Garey
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Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
2/3/2014 | 9:45:27 AM
Re: WIld card
@jgherbert - IT at some point has to become like more mature engineering disciplines, where a standard is the default and proprietary and specialized options have to be justified by offering an amount of benefit in line with not only the upfront but ongoing cost. You don't see an architectural engineering team deciding that 1,500 interior doors in an office high-rise won't be a standard opening. They might, however, decide that it's worthwhile to make the front door of the building custom.

Why should a datacenter be different? The basic building blocks - servers, storage, networking - should default to being cookie cutter. IT should think carefully about where it's worth adding proprietary or in-house-developed elements. 

We recently did a survey on exactly this topic: http://reports.informationweek.com/abstract/6/10096/Data-Center/Research:-Data-Center-Debate:-Standardization-vs.-Specialization.html

 
cbabcock
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cbabcock,
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1/31/2014 | 12:44:38 PM
Hey, I'm a software guy
Can an Open Compute server be produced from a 3D printer? Lorna, did I ever tell you I'm a software guy? I'm going to say no, but real answer is, I don't know.
anon6063359013
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anon6063359013,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/1/2014 | 3:03:28 PM
Re: Hey, I'm a tech enthusiastic
Just wanted to comment that i would not use the phrase " The goal is to reduce vendor lock-in" but  insted at  would say "  The goal is to offer an alternative ... my point is that openess should not look like a war of hate against close sources , i believe that both open and close source can coexist and everyone is to make thier choices, im just saying on my broken english, bear with me please, im spanish speaking  
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
1/31/2014 | 3:54:38 PM
The download factor
Charlie is right, the ease with which students can donwload code and tinker with Linux is another ballgame compared to designing data center hardware.
MarkHaysHarris
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MarkHaysHarris,
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2/1/2014 | 10:07:18 PM
Open Hardware is Similar to . . .
. . . the FOSS movement which produced Gnu/Linux.

 

No, of course not, Open Hardware is not like Linux.  Seriously?

 

The Open Hardware movement is similar in many respects to the free and open source software movement that produced the Linux kernel and the GNU system. 

The point regarding vendor lock-in is paramount. The community at large is sick-n-tired of vendors like NVidia, Broadcom, and others, who without regard for the free development community to "lock-out" software or hardware driver developers from certain platforms (Gnu/Linux, &c) forcing "lock-in" to other platforms... the 21st century has no patience with this working into the future.

The second point that needs to be explored is how much should "we the users" have as input to the hardware development process?  At a bare minimum we need to know how the device works, and have clear and concise APIs for application and kernel development.  ---no more proprietary firmware (we want the source) and no more propietary kernel blobs... the frimware does not belong in the kernel, period. If its not in the device itself, put it in a file, and give us the source.

And the thrid point is that we need hardware standards.  Everyone is sick-n-tired of fourteen different wifi card|standards and several different video standards.  We need industry standard open wifi and open vidieo (audio). 

Open hardware is important, but its not like the Linux kernel.  Gnu/Linux is open,  and the hardware|firmware needs to be open too.  If that is what is meant by "like Linux," well, ok...

 

Cheers


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