Episode 82

Steve Helvie and the Open Compute Project


June 25th, 2021

40 mins 33 secs

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Special Guest

About this Episode


Steve Helvie


Eric Berry | Justin Dorfman | Richard Littauer

Show Notes

Hello and welcome to Sustain! The podcast where we talk about sustaining open source for the long haul. Our guest today is exceptional in many ways, so you don’t want to miss this episode! On this episode, we have Steve Helvie, VP of Channel Development for the Open Compute Project (OCP). He helps to educate organizations on the benefits of open hardware designs and the value of “community-driven” engineering for the data center. Today, Steve tells us how the Open Compute Project started, how he got involved, how it generates revenue, what open hardware is, and the challenges he sees with open hardware. We also learn why Europe is always at the forefront of regulations when it comes to sustainability and designs. Download this episode now to find out much more!

[00:00:39] Eric, Richard, and Justin tell us about their backgrounds since Steve was curious.

[00:03:26] Steve tells us his background, what he does at Open Compute Project, and explains more about open hardware.

[00:06:41] Steve mentions there are 200 projects in the Open Compute Project and Richard wonders what the minimum entry is, what you need to be one of these projects, and how much money is needed to think about having open hardware in his company.

[00:12:04] Justin asks for Steve’s insight on a supply chain attack when it comes to hardware and how does the OCP fix it.

[00:14:56] Steve talks about sustainability with “save the earth and save money,” and how Europe is always at the forefront of regulations when it comes to sustainability and designs.

[00:17:00] Steve had mentioned that he’s invested in helping people have hardware and run hardware better for their own companies, and Richard sees this to be at ends with Cloud Native, so he asks Steve to talk about how he sees that conflict.

[00:18:13] Richard wonders if Steve is helping to improve Uber’s private cloud and partially the public cloud by allowing them to do work with OCP and with other managers, how has that not led towards a non-sustainable earth and how does he reckon with that conflict.

[00:20:51] In talking about refreshing hardware, Justin tells us about a book he read called _Flash Boys. _He also tells us about how he talked to an ex-Googler when GCP was getting built, who told him that Google was importing thirty tons of hard drives every single day and asks Steve if this is a normal thing.

[00:22:43] Richard wonders if a large amount of Steve’s clients are Crypto.

[00:23:37] Eric brings up Steve’s background and wonders if he had an a-ha moment or was there a point in time where he thought this is bigger than just hardware.

[00:26:00] Steve tells us besides memberships, how the OCP generates revenue. He talks about having to switch to virtual summits during COVID. The guys all chat about if they’ve seen memberships and activities increasing in the last year since going virtual. Steve shares a staggering number of virtual attendees at his recent event.

[00:30:37] Richard wonders what challenges Steve sees for the entire field of open hardware. Steve mentions a great course he took on Open Source Technology Management that’s worth checking out provided by Brandeis University.

[00:35:29] Find out where you can follow Steve online.


[00:08:02] “There is such a huge fear that someone’s going to take my designs and copy them.”

[00:08:28] “So, what big companies like, in any company really, is they like a dual sourcing strategy.”

[00:08:40] “They like that one skew, give me consistency across the board that I can deploy in Asia, Europe, or America, but give me multiple suppliers that mitigates my supply chain risk.”

[00:10:48] “The types of companies that are looking at Open Compute are companies that have an open source mindset, they have a Cloud Native mindset where software is going to define everything.”

[00:11:26] “And that’s the point of when that happens in industries you start to see this customer poll. It’s happening now in Telcos. Fintech gets it, gaming gets it, traditional banking, traditional healthcare, insurance companies do not get it yet, but they will. It’s going to come.”

[00:14:32] “So, there’s this second user economy or what we call circular economy that’s happening now within what Google, Microsoft, Facebook, all the Hyperscalers now have a second use plan because they need to for sustainability.”

[00:15:03] “What’s happening in Europe is you have Europe is always at the forefront of regulations when it comes to sustainability and designs.”

[00:15:21] “There are heat reuse out of data center initiatives. For example, the Netherlands, you cannot build a new data center in the Netherlands unless you have a heat reuse.”

[00:19:11] “So, the only part that I can see that’s redeeming about this fact is that OCP designs use a lot less energy between 30-50% less energy than a normal standard server.”

[00:19:53] “We have large enterprises that are taking the hardware coming out of these Hyperscale Data Centers that oftentimes is less than three years old.”

[00:20:02] “A lot of these Hyperscalers don’t even keep their hardware for more than three years and they’re out if it. That still has a lot of life for if I’m a small and medium sized business in anywhere else in the world, they can still use that hardware for five years.”

[00:34:28] “Open software, you can crank through it, iterations, sprints. Open hardware, it’s very dependent on chip cycles, product cycles, and yeah, it’s a lot of hurry up and wait in hardware.”


  • [00:36:32] Eric’s spotlight is Gitpod.
  • [00:38:30] Justin’s spotlights are Episodes 1-16 of Sustain the podcast are back home and Orbit.
  • [00:38:59] Richard’s spotlight is Strange Parts.
  • [00:39:21] Steve’s spotlight is Jason Mauck and his podcast called Mauck Me.



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