Dell Owes Facebook a Thank You

We've known for years that Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) creates its own servers. To date, the search king has kept quiet on the secret sauce that makes its machines special.

Whether that's folly isn't important. What is? Judo. Facebook -- ever the Google adversary -- is using The Big G's secrecy against it by revealing exactly how it creates power-saving servers and in the process has created an interesting and perhaps even disruptive opportunity for Dell (Nasdaq: DELL  ) .

The Social Network yesterday shared its custom server designs as part of the unveiling of what it calls the Open Compute Project, an open-source effort to share best practices in energy-efficient data center design. Jonathan Heiliger, Facebook's vice president for technical operations, provided details in a blog post and this video:

The claims are striking. Facebook says the greened servers -- which power the company's Pineville, Ore., data center -- produce the same computing horsepower as its remaining facilities yet use 38% less energy and cost 24% less to operate.

As a human being who believes in environmental stewardship, I like seeing green breakthroughs. I'd prefer my children grow up to breathe fresh air.

As an investor, I like that the Open Compute Project could make it more attractive to deploy servers for on-demand cloud computing. Anything that strengthens the links in the cloud computing value chain increases the value of those involved -- especially Google and data transport service providers such as Akamai (Nasdaq: AKAM  ) and Riverbed Technology (Nasdaq: RVBD  ) .

But in the end, it's Dell that could have the most to gain from the Open Compute Project. Although the spec was created with the help of Advanced Micro Devices (NYSE: AMD  ) , Intel (Nasdaq: INTC  ) , and Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ  ) , it's Dell that has already built servers based on the Open Compute design.

Given Facebook's success at scaling and squeezing profit from its business, Dell has all it needs to pitch its Open Compute-compliant servers. Expect big customers to bite.

Do you agree? Disagree? Let us know what you think about Facebook's servers, the Open Compute project, and the cloud computing value chain using the comments box below.

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