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This week executives from HP formally announced the company’s commitment to the Open Compute Project, a non-profit organization that centers around the use of data centers and, perhaps more surprisingly, Apple signed up too.

Antonio Neri, HP’s SVP of services and networking, said services are crucial in this era of cloud computing: “Service providers must adjust to meet ever-increasing customer demands for simplicity, security and availability.”

Old school pioneer HP is committed to open dialog. Maybe some day Google will join the discussion

Apple has yet to announce any Open Compute related products, but HP showed the fruits of a joint venture announced last year with Taiwan-based Foxconn, in which the two companies will now collaborate in producing the new HP Cloudline server family. The line is described as “basic, cost-focused, and customizable,” designed to offer the flexible on-demand capacities inherent to the growing global use of cloud computing.

The Open Compute Project was launched by Facebook in 2011 during a time it was completing a large data center. Its mission statement commits its memgers to “openly sharing ideas, specifications and other intellectual property.” It aims to to maximize innovation and reduce operational complexity with the increasing use of scalable computing.

Open by name, open by nature

Open Compute’s commitment to open source and an open environment of communication, seems to be combining with the complexity – and cost – of operating data centers to drive proprietary technology giants such as HP and Microsoft (which has a seat on the organization’s board) to the Project. Most mega-operators of data centers — Google being the largest and most notorious — do anything but share their engineering issues and practices.

In contrast, the Open Compute Project, with mega-operator Facebook as the anchor, aims to help data center operators of all sizes to benefit from the industry’s collective wisdom. Data centers grab an increasing share of global electricity use each year, and even small improvements in efficiency have a large overall impact. There are also myriad potential lessons learned in the areas of the creation, deployment, and lifecycle of applications and services.

The growth of cloud computing drives a lot of conversations about data center design and use as well. Cloud computing still commands less than 10 percent of all enterprise IT budgets, so there is enormous room for it to grow and impact the world of data center operators further.

Thus, we witness executives from old-school, proprietary Silicon Valley pioneer HP talking about its commitment to open source and open dialog. Maybe some day we’ll see the modern-day proprietary giant Google join the discussion as well.