Microsoft Extends Commitment to Open Compute Project

Guest post by Kushagra Vaid, GM, Server Engineering, Microsoft Cloud & Enterprise

Tomorrow I will be giving a keynote address at the Open Compute Project (OCP) U.S. Summit, reflecting on the amazing year since Microsoft joined OCP and announcing new innovative hardware contributions and industry ecosystem enabling efforts.  At this summit last year, we surprised a lot of people by joining OCP and submitting the first version of the Open CloudServer specification (OCS).  In that year, we’ve worked hard to continuously deliver new innovation to the OCP community, and have also seen industry support for OCS develop and diversify.  

Microsoft’s years of experience building and running cloud-scale datacenters provides us a unique perspective on how to help customers and service providers transform their own infrastructure to manage hyper-scale workloads.  Today, all new hardware infrastructure being deployed for Microsoft Azure, Office 365, Bing, and Xbox Live is based on the OCS version 2 specification. At the OCP summit, we will be announcing new contributions that make available Microsoft’s latest server hardware innovations to the broader OCP community.

Microsoft Delivers Next Round of Cloud-Scale Innovation to OCP

As an industry in cloud services, Microsoft needs to deliver innovation at cloud speed, and we’ve regularly passed that on to the OCP community.  With OCS v1, we introduced a 12U shared chassis approach with dramatic improvements over traditional enterprise server designs; up to 40 percent server cost savings, 15 percent power efficiency gains, and 50 percent reduction in deployment and service times.  With OCS v2 we added a number of performance and efficiency improvements via innovations in latest processor technology (Intel Xeon E5-2600 v3), high bandwidth networking (40-gigabit Ethernet and ROCE v2), and more.  Today I’m pleased to announce several additional developments:

  • Reinventing datacenter power backup solutions with LES: Microsoft’s new submission of the Local Energy Storage (LES) specification introduces a transformative approach to provisioning Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) capacity – moving batteries from large datacenter rooms to distributed units integrated directly into the power supplies which are part of the server chassis.  LES improves datacenter total cost of ownership (TCO) by reducing UPS costs up to 5 times and tying expenditure to capacity expansion rather than upfront capex when building the facility, by reducing facility footprint by up to 25 percent, and by improving power usage effectiveness (PUE) by up to 15 percent. The LES design incorporates industry standard commodity lithium-ion batteries (used in high volume power tools) to provide proven quality, reliability and cost benefits.  At the same time, service availability is significantly improved by narrowing the failure domain to the chassis level and by integrating the UPS monitoring and controls directly with the IT management system. Microsoft is currently deploying LES in volume in our global datacenter deployments and this innovative technology is now available to the broader OCP community as well.
  • Enabling an open switch system with SAI: At the summit, Microsoft will show the first demonstration of the Switch Abstraction Interface (SAI) specification, with contributors Dell, Mellanox, and Broadcom.  By providing simple, consistent programming interfaces for common networking functions implemented by network switch application-specific integrated circuits (ASIC), SAI enables the freedom to pick and choose the combination of hardware and software that is the best suited for each networking scenario. SAI is a key element in advancing the OCP objectives for disaggregated networking and an open switch ecosystem.
  • Enabling high performance, low cost storage: Microsoft has updated the OCS v2 blade to include eight slots for M.2 SSDs (solid state drives).  By utilizing commodity NAND flash storage, connected through high bandwidth PCI-Express, OCS v2 servers can now incorporate higher-capacity drives, higher-performance SSDs while ensuring lower component costs. Microsoft is contributing the OCS v2 Solid State Drive specification to the OCP community.

Canonical, Redfish and others show support for OCS

The last year witnessed great support for OCS, with a diverse and notable set of vendors and communities building solutions from systems to software to relevant standards.  We’re thrilled to announce two new solutions built on the OCS spec, which you’ll see showcased at the Summit.

  • Canonical and Microsoft Partner to Demonstrate First Fully Automated OCP Deployment: We’re announcing a new partnership with Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu operating system.  Canonical is supporting bare-metal provisioning on OCS hardware with its Metal-as-a-Service (MaaS) deployment product.  This support means Windows and Linux (Ubuntu, CentOS, SUSE) operating systems, as well as application software on top, can be one-touch provisioned on OCS hardware.  At the summit, we’re demonstrating provisioning a multi-tier web architecture including content publishing and database to multiple nodes in an OCS chassis.  This is the first showcase of automated deployment on OCP hardware, and displays the diverse mindshare OCS is capturing in the industry.  “Taking Microsoft’s leadership in OCP and combining that with our MaaS deployment product, we can significantly reduce the time and effort it takes to deploy a fully OCP-compliant solution,” said John Zannos, Vice President of Cloud Alliances at Canonical.  “It’s collaborations like this that are driving true innovation on behalf of enterprise and network customers worldwide.”
  • Simplifying OCS server management with Redfish: One of the exciting developments we are seeing is the network effects of the OCP ecosystem.  The Redfish Specification is a manageability interface and lightweight data model for managing servers over a network.  At the summit, we will demonstrate heterogeneous server management via the Redfish API.  A set of PowerShell scripts can auto-discover server platform capabilities through OData metadata, and then execute a series of server management commands on both OCS hardware as well as Intel RSA (rack scale architecture) hardware.

This has been an exciting year for OCP and Microsoft, and we are excited to continue sharing our cloud innovation with the community and the industry in order to foster more efficient datacenters and the adoption of cloud computing.  If you’re at the summit, please stop by our booth (B2) to learn more.  And for everyone, join our virtual conversation at @MSCloud.

 – Kushagra Vaid, GM, Server Engineering, Microsoft Cloud & Enterprise