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Facebook Releases Bryce Canyon Storage And Big Basin AI Design To Open Compute Project

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

Design specification released for Facebook’s new storage platform, coupled with the new AI ‘Big Basin’ Design

Facebook has been busy redesigning some core back-end systems, after the social networking giant revealed two new design specifications for both its storage systems and its artificial intelligence (AI) hardware.

Facebook said that both the design specifications for its AI hardware design (codenamed ‘Big Basin’) and its newest storage platform, Bryce Canyon, will be available via the Open Compute Project (OCP).

The Open Compute Project (OCP), the Facebook-backed initiative that seeks to develop cheaper, more energy-efficient data centre designs, has been around for a number of years now (2011 to be exact), and has some big name backers including Microsoft and Google.lulea-servers-facebook-data-centre

Big Basin

Facebook explained in a blog posting that it currently uses AI to power services such as speech and text translations, photo classifiers, and real-time video classification.

But the social networking giant believes that closer integration of software and hardware will help further the development of AI, and allow for larger and deeper neural networks.

To this end it created Big Basin, its next-generation GPU server. Facebook has also open sourced the design via the Open Compute Project.

“Big Basin is the successor to our Big Sur GPU server, which we announced in late 2015,” blogged the firm. “With Big Basin, we can train machine learning models that are 30 percent larger because of the availability of greater arithmetic throughput and a memory increase from 12 GB to 16 GB. This enables our researchers and engineers to move more quickly in developing increasingly complex AI models that aim to help Facebook further understand text, photos, and videos on our platforms and make better predictions based on this content.”

Big Basin is designed to be highly modular, and has improved the serviceability and thermal efficiency of the system.

Big Basin is split into three main sections: the accelerator tray, the inner chassis, and the outer chassis.

“We believe open collaboration helps foster innovation for future designs, putting us all one step closer to building complex AI systems that will ultimately help us build a more open and connected world,” it said. “The design specifications for Big Basin are publicly available through the Open Compute Project, and a comprehensive set of hardware design files will be released shortly.”

Bryce Canyon

Meanwhile Facebook engineers have also evolved its storage systems with the release of its third generation Bryce Canyon storage platform to the OCP.

Bryce Canyon is designed to help Facebook cope with the increasing amount of video it needs to store.

With a new focus on video experiences across our family of apps, our workloads are increasingly requiring more storage capacity and density,” it blogged. “We set out to design our next generation of storage with a focus on efficiency and performance, and are announcing today that the design specification for our newest storage platform, Bryce Canyon, is now available via the Open Compute Project.”

Again it is designed to be highly modular, but Bryce Canyon will primarily be used for high-density storage, including photos and videos.

“It is designed to support more powerful processors and more memory, and it improves thermal and power efficiency by taking in air underneath the chassis,” wrote Facebook. “The Bryce Canyon storage system supports 72 3.5” hard drives (12 Gb SAS/6 Gb SATA). The system can be configured as a single 72-drive storage server, as dual 36-drive storage servers with fully independent power paths, or as a 36/72-drive JBOD.”

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