A recent read in fortune.com titled “Pity the Poor Hardware Provider in the Age of Cloud” and another piece a year back on zdnet.com “Do server vendors have an answer for the white box trend? has made people take note of the swirl in the server hardware industry. Big cloud providers, sourcing white box server hardware directly from ODMs, have made the business environment hard for traditional hardware providers, which is rightly detailed in the above mentioned articles.
The advent of cloud computing has definitely given some unsettling moments to the traditional hardware vendors. But, as with any off-base happening, this has also thrown up new opportunities. A prominent example is the Open Compute Project. A few years back no one would have cared about standardization of servers on the lines of what is being driven by Open Compute Project.
Here, the thing which needs our attention is whether with the ODM route becoming more and more important for cloud providers, in order to design hardware as per their specs, can there be a collaborative value creation involving traditional hardware vendors, the ODMs and the cloud providers?
According to me, the OpenPOWER initiative is a step in that direction. It’s a ‘platform’ for enabling value creation by the participants and for the participants.
There are two main characteristics of the OpenPOWER initiative, which lays the foundation of the ‘platform’:
The ‘degree’ of openness is the key for the success of the ‘platform’. A platform that is too ‘closed’ might keep the desirable participants out. At the same time, too ‘open’ a platform can result in low quality contributions, which can be detrimental for the ‘platform’. OpenPOWER members share expertise, investment and server-class intellectual property to develop solutions.
The platform must be able to clearly show what’s in it for the participants, if they contribute. A successful platform should provide with resources to innovate, feedback mechanism and reward participation, so the the end result is worth the effort.
The OpenPOWER foundation enables members to customize POWER cpu processors, platforms, firmware and middleware for their business and organizational needs.
You can read more on OpenPOWER foundation here – http://openpowerfoundation.org
On a closing note, I would say it’s interesting times for the traditional hardware vendors.