Why does Facebook care about private cloud deployments at other companies, including potential competitors?
It doesn't. What it cares about is improving its own server, data center and storage hardware designs, making them run more efficiently in order to trim costs. In exchange for making its blueprints publicly available, Facebook is hoping other companies will contribute with their own innovations, open-source software style.
The social networking site generates a lot of buzz for new features and privacy controversies. Its less-sexy Open Compute Project, or the "open-sourcing" of its custom-built server and data center technology, made far less of a splash when it was unveiled last April. But over the last few months, the project has quietly made headway. Facebook says its community of contributors has grown to over 1,000. About 250 non-Facebook employees attended its first-ever Open Compute summit last month. The next one is scheduled for October, and you can bet Nebula will be there.
"Nebula has some very significant engineering talent," says Facebook's Frankovsky. "And they'll actively contribute back."
Nebula also has some very significant financial backers (again, the company won't disclose the exact dollar amount it managed to raise). Its list of investors includes Sun Microsystems co-founder Andy Bechtolsheim and venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Five pilot customers from energy, finance, biotech and media industries will begin deploying private clouds using Nebula's appliance in early October.
"Our business model is simple, you just buy a box and plug servers into it," says Kemp. "We want to disrupt the existing economies here."
Of course, while the use of open-source software and hardware could enable Nebula to offer a cheaper solution for private cloud deployments, the very definition of open-source technology means that it's also available to any other company interested in utilizing it. Dell's just-launched OpenStack Cloud Solution is also being touted as an alternative to existing cloud options that are based on proprietary, licensed software. And with both OpenStack and Facebook's Open Compute Project still in their infancy, you can count on many more open-source cloud infrastructure "alternatives" hitting the market in coming years.