The teams of Purdue students will be provided with a server to use to try new designs and the winner will get a trip to the Open Compute Summit

Facebook, Open Compute Recruit Purdue Students in Biodegradable Server Design Challenge

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Facebook is challenging students in Purdue’s College of Technology new entrepreneurship program to create a biodegradable server chassis to be included in its Open Compute Project.

The Open Compute Project was created last year by Facebook to improve data center design, efficiency, and drive hardware costs down.

Typically data center efficiency is focused on power or water usage, but disposing of data center hardware can be wasteful, especially since servers are usually replaced every four years.

Open Compute wants students to redesign the server chassis, typically made of recyclable steel, and think even greener with a compostable server chassis.

The teams of students will be provided with a server to use to try new designs. The winner will get a trip to the Open Compute Summit to present the winning design, and Purdue will help the winner create and fund a prototype.

The first challenge will begin with a Computer and Information Technology course in the Spring 2013 semester.

As Rich Miller at Data Center Knowledge points out, a key factor of biodegradable server chassis design will be cost, “and whether the economics of a biodegradable design for a server chassis can work at scale.”

According to a recent report by Oracle, during its fiscal year 2012 it collected 2,952,326 lbs of electronic equipment, including servers and storage systems, in the US. Of this, 92.35 percent was recycled, 6.96 percent reused and 0.69 percent (or 20,515 lbs) land filled. While the majority of equipment is recycled, this is just information from one company, so the total amount of data center hardware wasted yearly in the US is unknown.

Recently, a Facebook engineer developed heat map software to identify problem servers in a data center. Facebook said it had no plans to include it in the Open Compute project, but that could change.

In July, Facebook began testing the Open Rack prototype, with plans to integrate the rack into its Prinevillle, Oregon, data center design.

Talk back: Do you see a value in biodegradable data center hardware? Do you deploy any of Facebook’s Open Compute data center designs in your own facility? Let us know in a comment.


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