Software-defined is the key to the success of Open19

What is Open19? 

Open19 was founded to facilitate standardisation efforts for web-scale data centres. The founders wanted to enable data centre architectures that would feature standard-sized hardware to help optimise data centre build and maintenance times, regardless of the data centre’s size. The team in charge of the project soon learned however that a standardisation effort could only be successful if it was backed by a community of both technology vendors and users. The results of this realisation are the Open19 Foundation and the Open19 Project. 

Founding partners Flex, GE Digital, HP Enterprise, LinkedIn and Vapor IO have been joined by vendors such as Excelero to build an industry specification that defines a common server form factor, designed to enable more flexible and economic data centres. At the core of the Open19 Project is the definition of an industry-wide common form factor: standard building blocks that enable modular data centre design, which are efficient to install and feature components that are commonly available such as brick cages and network switches. Aside from hardware, Open19 also invites software partners that add value to the Open19 objectives: software-defined is key to the success of Open19. 

The attentive reader might wonder how Open19 is different from the Open Compute Project (OCP). The answer is very simple: the OCP initiative, led by Facebook, was created for open sourcing hardware innovations, mostly designed for extremely large-scale data centres. The two initiatives are not competitive, and can co-exist. Contrary to OCP, Open19 is built for standard data centres and can be customised for organisations of any size. 

The three main benefits of Open19 are efficiency, scalability and flexibility. The project was designed to save costs through reduced capex and lower management efforts. Adopters of Open19 will have a choice of a rich portfolio of interoperable technologies, interchangeable in a standardised 19-inch rack environment. Open19 allows organisations to easily mix and match server hardware. 

Why is software-defined important? 

Key for the success of Open19 will be the availability of software that supports open data centre designs. Virtualisation, containers and software-defined networking are essential to Open19 data centres, as is software-defined storage.   

The promise of software-defined storage is to provide flexibility and efficiency for storage environments of any scale. Customers need the ability to deploy storage infrastructures starting with a few servers and scale out limitlessly with guaranteed reliability, predictable performance and seamless integration with their infrastructure and applications while maintaining operational simplicity. Software-defined storage on standard servers has already gained success with object storage: big server vendors see the potential of scale-out storage on standard servers, and have embraced one or more object storage technologies to offer cost-efficient active archive solutions.   

There is, however, a lot more potential when you can also enable customers to transform their primary storage infrastructures as well as consolidate their current storage silos into unified, scalable and flexible block storage pools on standard servers to support multiple applications. Consolidating storage tiers avoids the need to overprovision storage and do forklift upgrades, and also lowers the overall TCO. 

The software-designed block storage solution based on high performance NVMe flash selected for Open19 was designed to do just that. By leveraging underlying storage medium, applications can be provisioned with volumes that meet all application requirements (scale, performance, availability, reliability, efficiency and cost) and guarantee internal or external SLAs.  

This opens a whole new range of possibilities for Open19 data centres as customers can deploy high-performance block storage on standard Open19 servers for hyper-scale applications, at a fraction of the cost of traditional flash arrays. The flexibility, scalability and efficiency offered by software-defined storage solutions aligns with the values of Open19 and plays a key part in creating a flexible and economic data centre and edge solution for operators of all sizes. 

Who is Open19 for? 

So, who is Open19 suitable for, and who is ready to deploy it? Firstly, Open19 has its roots in web-scale data centres, so naturally, other providers of web and cloud services that set their sights at becoming a hyper-scale web provider are, or should be, interested in the Open19 Project. 

According to a recent survey carried out by ESG, digital media is one of the primary workloads that is driving short term storage growth. Media & Entertainment (M&E) organisations will benefit from Open19’s open technology that offers the necessary performance and will scale out in line with company expansion. Another field that requires a complex mix of scalability, high-performance and efficiency is that of big data analytics applications, including real-time analytics, artificial intelligence (AI) and industrial IoT. Businesses that rely on these applications are likely to be interested in the benefits offered by Open19, which enables their companies to avoid being locked-in to a specific vendor and offers long-term savings alongside impressive performance and scalability. These advantages are vital for companies whose workloads continue to grow and change.   

It is also interesting to note that Fortune 500 Enterprises have evolved from late adopters to innovators. Whereas the big banks used to buy Big Blue only, they now heavily support open initiatives like OpenStack, and now also Open19. The launch event of Open19 in May was attended by a good number of financial sector CTO’s.   

What to expect? 

The inclusive and open standard built by the Open19 partners can coexist with many other standards and enable greater flexibility, scalability and savings for companies of all shapes and sizes. It will be worth paying attention to how the Open19 concept continues to grow. 

Tom Leyden, Vice President Corporate Marketing, Excelero 

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