Peter ffoulkes, an analyst with 451 Research, was more optimistic. "I think it will be relevant to any large company that wants to customize their data center to match their workload," he said.
Even large retailers such as Target and Wal-Mart, which may not appear to be technology-driven companies, do a lot of data analysis to uncover customer buying trends, he noted.
The top-tier server vendors don't want to be left out of the picture, and some said they'll support the Open Compute specifications in some products. Dell showed two prototype servers, for example, one with an x86 processor and one with an ARM processor, which were both running a server management platform developed through Facebook's project.
Jay Parikh, Facebook's vice president of engineering, said the move to more flexible systems couldn't come at a better time. Data volumes are so high, he said, that companies such as Facebook need to architect complex, custom storage systems to manage the load.
Facebook users upload more than 350 million new photos a day, he said, consuming more than 7 petabytes of storage capacity each month. Those numbers may sound unique to Facebook, but data volumes are expanding for everyone, and other companies will face similar challenges in the near future, according to Parikh.
"The big data challenges that we face today are definitely going to be your big data challenges tomorrow," he said.
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