Open Compute is bringing the maker movement to the enterprise

[protected-iframe id=”528d1c2a32d4b56e5b090da738591a9c-14960843-61002135″ info=”″ width=”640″ height=”360″ frameborder=”0″ scrolling=”no”]
Transcription details:

Input sound file:
1002.Batch 4

Transcription results:

Session Name: Hardware Hackathon Results.

Stacey Higginbotham
John Kenevey
Matt Gambardella

Stacey Higginbotham 00:06
Hey y’all, thanks for coming back. This is really exciting because it’s about hardware, and anyone who has been to the structure conferences knows that hardware is the reason I am here. But, this is not just CPUs and – I’m not going to call it boring, because it’s really important – but it’s more exciting. It’s more exciting because Facebook yesterday did its second hardware hackathon as part of what it’s doing with Open Compute. Actually, I should have John tell you about this. John, you’re in charge of doing this, so why is Facebook hosting these hackathons and what do you get out of it?
John Kenevey 00:49
Yeah, this is the second we’ve had and we’re kind of in this experimental phase in building up the hackathons. The idea is that we want to build a community around openness, and accelerate innovation. We think the hackathons lower the barriers to entry for entrepreneurs because they can get access to not only ideas and other engineers but also venture capital and things like that.
Stacey Higginbotham 01:08
We have on stage with us, the winner of yesterday’s hardware hackathon. It took, let’s see, from noon to one they were working on a variety of seven projects – how many exactly?
John Kenevey 01:19
We had about six or seven demos at the end of the day, where not exactly sure how many, it was tiring.
Stacey Higginbotham 01:22
Six or seven, you’re not sure. [laughter]
John Kenevey 01:24
Well, it was tiring. Demos are big shooter things, so, you know.
Stacey Higginbotham 01:28
And this is Matt Gambardella, and he and his team of three other people, who are somewhere out there.
Matt Gambardella 01:35
Those fellas right there.
Stacey Higginbotham 01:36
Hey guys! So, they are the winners – can you tell us what you built?
Matt Gambardella 01:40
So, what we looked at some of the problems with taking the new open hardware. We came up with a way to take this little card here and create a wireless mesh network that allowed us to then use this hub that we invented to do remote management of servers in Iraq. We were able to take an iPad app and replace the traditional crash card that all your IT staff know and love, and use this simple app to go and manage the server by doing remote reboots, reading the post codes as the servers were turning on, and even getting a zero-console so you could even do the debugging of the actual product.
Stacey Higginbotham 02:19
So instead of some guys, or maybe several guys – maybe girls – running around with the card and plugging stuff into servers and being like ” are you still working?” and then managing it, now this guy, which you have cleverly named…
Matt Gambardella 02:35
“Cheesy finger.”
Stacey Higginbotham 02:36
This is Cheesy finger, he lives on the server, and this is…
Matt Gambardella 02:40
The Big Cheese [laughs]. Our guys were eating a lot of Cheetos when they were working on this project.
Stacey Higginbotham 02:46
So it talks to this and then everything on an iPad app and I can actually control, fix things and reboot the servers.
Matt Gambardella 02:51
Yeah, and diagnose the problems, across many different machines at once, just from an iPad app.
Stacey Higginbotham 02:58
So it kind of begs the question – well, it answers the questions – why are you guys trying to do these hackathons? What do you hope to get out of it?
John Kenevey 03:08
Really I think we’re trying to create an incubation channel to engage entrepreneurs in the hardware space when we accelerate the space. We’re really trying to foster and ecosystem and a community, and it has been successful. The first hackathon had about 30 participants, and the one yesterday had about 60, so we’re seeing the numbers grow. We think there’s about three different pillars that we should focus on. The first is you want to engage a demographic that is entrepreneurial, and we were successful in that yesterday with Matt and the other folks that I’ll talk about. The second pillar is the want to engage the venture capital community and SKT innovations partners, who put up the cash prize for yesterday’s hackathons, so we’re starting to engage in the VC community. The third you want academia involved. We had kids from Stanford there, people from Singapore University; quite a variety of academic students.
Stacey Higginbotham 03:55
Let’s talk about two of the notable mentions you talked about. One of them is a very young group of people.
John Kenevey 04:04
Yeah, this is the team from the East Coast from MIT, made of about five people, four of which are actually part of the TEAL fellowship program. Thomas Summers is the youngest TEAL fellow ever.
Stacey Higginbotham 04:19
We may not all know what the fellowship is…
John Kenevey 04:22
Okay, so Peter Teal has the Teal foundation and every year awards I think $100, 000 to a variety of different students who take a year out of school and go do engineering or different kinds of entrepreneurial activity. Thomas Summers, the head of this particular team, happens to be the youngest ever to receive that award. I met him in Boston a couple of months ago and we told him about this hack, and he said he’d love to join. He and his team actually built a 48 node ARM cluster.
Stacey Higginbotham 04:53
I love ARM clusters.
John Kenevey 04:54
And then they ported “hip-hop”, which is Facebook’s compiler for PHP code, to ARM in 12 hours, which is pretty amazing. They demo’ed that for us at the end of the day, so that was a really significant hack.
Stacey Higginbotham 05:10
And that’s not to say that Facebook is going to be running on 32 bit ARM chips anytime soon?
John Kenevey 05:16
No, not at all.
Stacey Higginbotham 05:19
You also had one other hack?
John Kenevey 05:20
Yeah, it was actually this woman who headed up this team called DPM. They wanted to focus on the automotive space, and they essentially created this path through data aggregator and a phone app that would aggregate your driving behavior. But the really cool thing about this was they actually designed a board at the hackathon, and thanks to Tempo automation who brought a robotic machine that could pin out a board to support the hack, they actually pinned out a board there within the hackathon, within the 12 hours. So that was a really significant thing to happen.
Stacey Higginbotham 05:57
Which they totally assure me is very impressive.
John Kenevey 06:01
We actually have a video of it for you to check out. I thought it was pretty cool.
Stacey Higginbotham 06:04
We’re going to put it online, it’s going to be amazing. What I think is fun about this is you guys have found a lot of providers of tools to take what is the software hackathon idea, which is very “you can code anywhere, you can do anything” and brought it into the hardware world, where you have Averter, Tech Shop, Tempo. And Tech Shop is doing what?
John Kenevey 06:30
So they brought the tooling, right. We wanted to do this back in 2011 when we started Open Compute, but Averter just came out of Y-Combinator and the product wasn’t really ready, we were only building the brand and relationships of the tooling ecosystem. But now they’re aware of us, we’ve got good brands, so they turn up at these hackathons and wait actually for the designs to come in and they start building it real time.
Stacey Higginbotham 06:51
The other thing I think is really awesome about this, and why I thought it would be awesome to have you at Structure, is we hear a lot about people building hardware and people building things on the consumer side, and I think can thick of all these fun projects that are on Kickstarter, but you are actually doing it for the enterprise. I think a lot of people would be very intimidated by the idea of building hardware in twelve hours that might go into a data center. Now, realistically, this isn’t going into the data centers tomorrow, but …
John Kenevey 07:19
Not tomorrow, but give us another week or so.
Stacey Higginbotham 07:22
See, I love that attitude! [applause]
John Kenevey 07:24
Yeah, I mean it’s pretty much a product, what they built.
Stacey Higginbotham 07:28
Are you guys going to build it?
Matt Gambardella 07:31
We’re discussing it. I would like to do that, definitely.
Stacey Higginbotham 07:35
And you got money for this!
Matt Gambardella 07:36
Yes, we did. Or, we will [laughter]
Stacey Higginbotham 07:40
Don’t say anything bad about your investors [laughter] And that’s part of the hackathon, too, you guys are providing this.
John Kenevey 07:47
Yeah, we’re trying to set up incentives, essentially. So we’ve been talking to Nat Murphy at Climber and other folks and talking about a CP, so we’re going to work with the VC community here in the valley and set up cash prizes for these things on a year-to-year or six month cadence, to incentivize the entrepreneurial demographic, which is key. All these open source efforts and all these collaboration innovation spaces, all depend on the community. So it’s all about getting them engaged and setting up the right incentives.
Stacey Higginbotham 08:11
So are you going to quit your day jobs?
Matt Gambardella 08:13
Not yet!
Stacey Higginbotham 08:14
Yeah, your boss may be in the audience.
John Kenevey 08:17
[laughter] Yes, maybe.
Stacey Higginbotham 08:24
I didn’t ask that! Well, thank you guys for coming.
Matt Gambardella 08:27
You bet. Thanks for having us.