UL (Underwriters Laboratories), a global safety certification organization, has joined the Open Compute Project (OCP), the open source data center hardware specifier.

As a platinum OCP sponsor, UL wants to help provide trust in the hardware and software which are specified through OCP. It will contribute expertise in safety and performance to the productization and roll-out of OCP designs.

UL Mark
– UL

OCP was founded in 2011 by Facebook, aiming to share designs for data center hardware and software, so operators can get the best value. Its members include AT&T, Cisco, Ericsson, Facebook, Google and Microsoft.

UL delivers testing and certification, as well as training and risk management for safety, security and sustainability.

“UL has been a significant contributor to Open Compute members for decades,” said Bill Carter, chief technology officer, OCP.  “We welcome UL’s scientific expertise in safety, security and sustainability. We look forward to UL providing valuable insights as an independent third party to Open Compute Project initiatives helping to shape the future of data center innovation.”

In its work on the safety and reliability of components, sub-systems, system integration and the installation of infrastructure, UL has already had an impact on data centers, and it plans to supports research and development involving multiple OCP companies, according to its announcement.

“Anticipating how advanced technologies, innovative business models and new ecosystems will impact data centers is a challenge globally,” said Ibrahim Jilani, director, global industry leader of consumer technology at UL. 

“UL envisions a future of rapid data center expansion and we understand that we have a critical role to play for the success of the Open Compute members to boldly and safely reimagine hardware technology and fully realize the potential of their investments.

This isn't UL's first foray into data centers. Back in 2018, UL launched a data center reliability and safety certification standard, UL3223. Critics at the time argued that its work was a duplication of that of Uptime Institute, ANSI, and European standards bodies, and its UL3223 standard was not easily available.

It's possible that working through OCP is an answer to the criticism of UL's earlier efforts. When UL3223 was made public, Edward van Leent, CEO of training company EPI, said: "In my humble opinion, UL is best known and very well respected for their safety consulting and certification. Their expertise is definitely of great value to the data center industry. However, although maybe commercially less appealing, I personally think it would be far better for the industry if they would join technical committees/workgroups of existing standards and contribute in that way to further fine-tune those standards on safety aspects instead of attempting to create a new standard."