Editor's note: This article was written by OCP's Bill Carter and John Hu, CTO and VP of Inspur Group.

Today, there is a digital transformation taking place worldwide that is creating the need for more advanced technology that can cost-effectively store and rapidly move vast amounts of data, and then enable that data to be computed on across the entire network. Because this data needs to be computed along every step of the way between the data center out to the network edge, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. That said, open source initiatives, such as the Open Computing Project Foundation (OCP), are helping to foster an environment for collaboration and standardization that can share best practices, reduce duplication of efforts, and more rapidly meet the growing demand for high-performance computing needs at the network edge.

According to Vladimir Galabov, Principal Analyst for Data Center Compute at IHS Markit, “Since we started tracking the Hyper-Converged Infrastructure (HCI) market in more detail, we discovered that an important growth driver is enterprises deploying HCIs at the network edge. These enterprises are running workloads like real-time analytics and data consolidation in local branches, retail stores, etc. What’s more, our latest survey points to growth in the amount of unstructured data that enterprises collect and need to process at the edge.

"This will drive the need to deploy servers there.”

Opening up

Several OCP racks

Clearly, open sourcing has underpinned a lot of the technology and server advancements being deployed by hyperscalers today, particularly in China, but also in expanding markets worldwide. These technological advancements have found their way into the hyperscale and enterprise data center, but telecoms and enterprises are now asking questions around data and data movement that can make a difference in transforming and creating value at the network edge.

Why do you want to be at the edge? Are you looking to develop real-time insights? Do you want to push better capabilities out to your customers or to your data center?

Telecoms, in particular, are vested to meet the growing need for high-performance computing and storage solutions at the network edge. Server systems designs and deployments need to meet the challenges associated with signal processing for the base station, as well as handling extremely high bandwidth traffic, both of which drive a need for very high-speed processing protocols. At the same time, control over power, with the server itself being located in the field, brings further design challenges.

The Open Compute Project helps those people who are trying to grow their business to standardize in the areas where there are common problems across the industry. Better performance efficiency, reduced power and better networking, make it easier to transition to next-generation technologies and solutions, allowing them to invest where they need to grow. Whether that's investing in their software, their services portfolio or international buildouts to new markets, they can focus where they need to.

With the expansive growth of cloud computing, IoT applications, gaming and more, there is a growing need to extend the open and scalable data center technology and to provide solutions all the way to the network edge. Telecom providers and enterprise companies will need to deploy servers with advanced capabilities at the network edge. These devices will need to have remote management capability as well as robust IO capability for workloads such as inference, network virtualization, virtual reality, and cellular services. They will be deployed both indoor or outdoor, in cities, suburbs and remote areas, and under a variety of environmental conditions.

A new type of server form factor, designed for secure deployment into harsh conditions and limited space will be necessary. The challenge to transplant high-performance computing technology, network technology, storage technology, and accelerator hardware from the data center to the edge will best be met through collaborative, open communities such as the Open Compute Project, Telecom Infra Project, OpenStack, ONF and others.

As stated by Dr. Cliff Grossner, Head of the Cloud Data Center Research Practice at IHS Markit, "The OCP is primarily about shared innovation and that's why it's important. There is certainly a concrete value proposition, but it's really about fostering innovation and helping change industry that matters."