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What the Open Compute Project Is, and Why VARs Should Care

September 07, 2017

What the Open Compute Project Is, and Why VARs Should Care

At this time last year, a CRN article was reporting on what CRN saw as the upcoming tectonic shift in the business model for VARs, primarily due to the cloud. In that article, CRN quoted a Forrester prediction that stated the revenue mix for partners will shift to a predominant services model over products by 2020. That’s a major turnaround from where it sits today.

That being said, VARs can definitely see the handwriting on the wall, and with the fundamental changes being introduced by OCP beginning to take hold, services will be more important than ever. To understand the changes on the horizon for VARs and why they should care, it's best to start with a general background on OCP, what it is, and where it’s going.

Begun in 2011 by then-Facebook infrastructure head Jonathan Heiliger, the goal of OCP was to share best practices in design efficiencies via open standards to help IT organizations lower costs. In addition, the group had a vision to deliver hyperscale-inspired design practices to the masses, like mainstream enterprise IT and smaller-scale service providers.

With OCP, hardware design and manageability are open-sourced, with the aim of reducing power consumption, cost, and the size of data center hardware by building custom hardware that includes the best and only the necessary components for specific applications.

The goal of open-compute server technology is to be able to architect completely optimized server technologies that deploy faster, are less expensive, and have just the right features needed for scale and efficiency. Every IT organization is on a continuous search for ways to become more efficient and lower costs.

The free and "open source" concept behind OCP is changing the dynamic, as the largest manufacturers realize that they must respond to the flexibility needs of enterprises as well as the hyperscale data centers. There is still a long way to go as standards, scalability, products, and solution offerings grow enough to penetrate the overall market at a scale that triggers the tipping point. In the meantime, OCP’s influence is being felt in profound ways throughout the market in tangible ways.

For VARs, the emerging service model will certainly converge with the ethos behind OCP as it enables small to medium-sized businesses to take advantage of its promise to avoid proprietary technologies that create vendor lock-in with data center design. For VARs that are also integrators, the impact will be even greater as OCP continues to influence innovations in software-defined networking, software-defined storage, and hyperconverged architectures.

As more clients begin to enquire about the possibilities for OCP solutions for mid-level data centers, VARs will need to go beyond stock answers of it being primarily for hyperscale-sized data centers. This evolving paradigm of services over products means that VARs must be capable of being full-scope solution providers that can tell clients all of their options to bring efficiencies, scalability, and flexibility to data center architecture design.

The OCP innovations will continue to bleed into proprietary solutions that are trying to compete and lead to a more competitive environment for servers overall. VARs must be knowledgeable, ready, and connected to innovative solutions that either emerge or are derivative of the OCP to meet the needs of clients demanding more efficient and cost-effective servers for data centers.