Project Olympus: Microsoft's next-gen cloud hardware and the Open Cloud Project

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Krishna Kumar Emani

Published on November 28, 2016


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The term “open source” is always tied to software development. However, cloud-related hardware too can be designed and built using the open-source model. Project Olympus is Microsoft’s new approach to contributing innovative cloud hardware designs to the OCP when they are approximately 50% complete using a software-like approach via the GitHub repository.1 The company aims to imbue the agility that defines collaborative software development into the process of creating powerful servers that will deliver cloud software and services. The project ushers in a new way in which members of the OCP community can accelerate open hardware designs’ implementation process. The ultimate goal of Project Olympus is to create datacenter hardware that can keep pace with the tremendous growth of the cloud. The hardware will focus on cost and power efficiency, modularity, and global datacenter interoperability. It will also support a wide range of workloads, including newer cloud services.2 The project’s contribution to the OCP consists of the following:

  • 1U/2U server chassis
  • A new universal motherboard
  • A standards compliant rack management card
  • High availability power supply with batteries included
  • High-density storage expansion
  • A new universal rack power distribution unit for global datacenter interoperability         

project olympus

project olympus

Project Olympus will offer more flexibility and choice to suppliers, adopters and innovators by showcasing modularity. The building blocks of the contribution will allow adopters and suppliers to piece these blocks together in order to meet specific design needs and datacenter configurations. The motherboard, server chassis interfaces and power distribution unit have already been released in the GitHub repository. 3

The Open Cloud Project: What is it? How is it related to project Olympus?

The open compute project is an initiative that was started by facebook in 2011 to efficiently share cloud-scale data center and server designs with the information technology industry. The OCP has expanded as a Facebook project over the last few years and now involves members like Goldman Sachs, Rackspace and Arista Networks. Microsoft, which is a platinum member, joined the OCP in early 2014 as the first hyperscale data center operator. The OCP grew out of Facebook’s efforts to design and build custom servers, software and data center components to deal with increased demands users placed on its infrastructure.  OCP brings together a broad community from numerous business disciplines with a common objective of building better hardware. 4The members of the community are not sworn to secrecy thus can work together in the open. For cloud networking, interoperability is everything. The OCP community is successfully collaborating with Project Olympus to develop designs for server racks, power distribution schemes, energy-efficient servers and cooling systems. Leading vendors are participating in Project Olympus in order to field more offerings that are customized while maintaining their product lines. This approach will address any issues that could relate to interoperability of cloud hardware across a network. Through project Olympus, the OCP will feedback from its community through contributions in terms of board files, schematics and mechanical assemblies. Hardware inspired by the OCP is now standard across the global Microsoft infrastructure for data centers.

How will this launch impact the cloud computing market?

The project represents a level of cooperation between software, hardware and service providers that is beneficial to the entire cloud industry. To forward-looking end-users and enterprises, the project’s common cloud infrastructure facilitates simple migration from public to private clouds.  Also, infrastructure built on the same technology and architecture as public clouds are likely to scale extremely well and have reasonable operational costs. The half-baked designs submitted to the OCP fast-track development of derivative designs, promotes interactive community engagement and speeds up overall delivery.6 Other benefits include:

  • Enterprises will get a say in the features being addressed, ensuring their own needs are implicitly or explicitly part of the equation.
  • Members of the project will get the benefits of being innovation leaders with their partners and customers, the result of which will pay great dividends in terms of lower costs and efficiency.
  • The project is based on open formats and standards that aren’t tied into proprietary technologies.
  • It gives users a broad choice of infrastructure. They can choose their cloud and infrastructure provider.

What do you need to learn to gain expertise in this tool? How will certification training in cloud platforms help?

As the OCP continues to grow, and more content is submitted for Project Olympus, there is a great need for a scalable and transparent approach that will ensure solutions meet the minimum OCP standards for cloud compliance. As more businesses shift their operations to cloud platforms, skills in virtualization and cloud computing have become pertinent for IT professionals. For the best cloud platforms certification, one should consider both vendor-specific and vendor-neutral certification options from top players in the cloud space. Adding these certifications to a resume demonstrates the ability to implement cloud technologies. Certification training in cloud platforms can help one:

  • Understand terms and methodologies used in cloud computing
  • Implement, maintain and provide cloud technologies and infrastructure, including network, server and virtualization technologies.
  • Use the best practices in cloud implementations and virtualization.
  • Understand many aspects of cloud security
  • Recommend the appropriate technologies and components.
  • Set strategies for enterprise information across new infrastructure.

The certifications may cover the following cloud topics:

  • Security
  • Resource management
  • Infrastructure
  • Virtualization
  • Business continuity in the cloud
  • Cloud concepts and models

The cloud certifications are ideal for those seeking job opportunities as system administrators, network administrators, network engineers and storage administrators.

About the Author

Krishna is an IaaS cloud expert and is associated with Arcserve. Leading the cloud service provider division, Krishna’s main responsibilities include development, implementation, and management of Cloud Data centres. He is certified in VCP, Google Cloud Certified System Operations, Red Hat, and MCSE.


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