Facebook’s hardware team has opted to design their own server hardware instead of building a server farm using commercial solutions. According to Bloomberg, this marks a growing trend wherein companies like IBM, Dell, and Hewlett-Packard are losing considerable sales as Google, Facebook, and other big data companies are taking the do-it-yourself approach.
20 percent of the U.S. market for servers is comprised of customized machines and computer makers are feeling the pain. For the big data houses and server farms that support Google, Facebook, and Amazon a no-frills rack unit, that only has the most basic of components, is far more energy efficient and cheaper than any sleek packaged commercial blades.
For example Facebook’s DIY servers have custom power supplies and circuit boards in sheet-metal enclosures designed to maximize airflow with the minimum number of fans. Google’s servers are built only with the barest components necessary to run their striped-down version of the Linux operating system, and Microsoft has designed servers to host its cloud computing service.
In 2009, Google first unveiled the design of its servers, which it had previously been tight-lipped about. Each server has its own 12-volt battery to supply power if there's a problem with the main source of electricity. Power-efficieny is a fundamental obsession of Google's server design team, and this design has by now by through at least ten iterations.
Google's homemade servers as of 2009:
As Bloomberg reports, the computer industry has little choice but to adapt and the trend of using cheaper servers for cloud computing may continue to spread to other application areas as well. Given the DIY spirit of the bioinformatics community, and its growing interest in cloud computing, homegrown server hardware could become an attractive option for hosting private clouds with open source software layers.