Microsoft to announce Project Olympus, the next generation of open source cloud hardware

Dave W. Shanahan

In a blog post on Microsoft Azure, Kushagra Vaid, GM of Azure Hardware Infrastructure, announced he would be speaking at Zettastructure: The European Digital Infrastructure Summit hosted by Datacenter Dynamics in London.

Tomorrow, Vaid will announce Project Olympus, Microsoft’s next generation hyperscale cloud hardware design in collaboration with the Open Compute Project (OCP). Project Olympus will offer a new model for open source hardware development with the OCP community.

In 2014, Microsoft joined OCP in an effort to reimagine its Azure cloud hardware through the open source community. Initially, Microsoft shared Azure server and datacenter designs and offered Azure’s software-defined networking (SDN) principles. Microsoft learned a number of important things through its collaboration with OCP and the open source community.

One such important thing is that open source hardware development is not being developed at the same pace as open source software. With the current process for open hardware development, the designs that are offered are almost 100% complete and ready for production. This process limits interactive community engagement and adoption and slows down cloud hardware deployment.

In order to address these issues, Microsoft collaborated with OCP to introduce a new hardware development protocol allowing for more community-based open collaboration. Project Olympus offers this new open source collaboration approach that is used for software development and applies it to developing cloud hardware.

Project Olympus introduces cloud hardware designs to the OCP community that are about 50% complete. By sharing designs that are in the early stages of development, Project Olympus allows  the community to contribute by downloading and modifying the hardware design just like open source software. Bill Carter, Chief Technology Officer, Open Compute Project Foundation commends Microsoft for Project Olympus, saying:

“Microsoft is opening the door to a new era of open source hardware development. Project Olympus, the re-imagined collaboration model and the way they’re bringing it to market, is unprecedented in the history of OCP and open source datacenter hardware.”

Here’s a look at what Microsoft’s Project Olympus will contribute; a new universal motherboard, high-availability power supply with included batteries, 1U/2U server chassis, high-density storage expansion, a new universal rack power distribution unit (PDU) for global datacenter interoperability, and a standards-compliant rack management card.

Microsoft, Project Olympus, Cloud, Azure
Project Olympus
Microsoft, Azure, Project Olympus
Project Olympus Rack system

Head over to the OCP GitHub branch to check out the Project Olympus’ mechanical and power server chassis interfaces, the universal motherboard, and PDU (protocol data unit) specifications. Microsoft will open source the entire rack system in the next few weeks.

At the Zettastructure: The European Digital Infrastructure Summit in London, Microsoft will share more information on Project Olympus in a detailed keynote presentation, an OCP workshop session, and will have other Project Olympus hardware on display in the Microsoft booth. In addition to the OCP GitHub branch, there are other OCP resources available regarding Project Olympus, including the OCP Server Project Wiki, OCP Events and Meeting Calendar, and the OCP Server Project Mailing list.