Rackspace, OpenPOWER & Open Compute: Full Speed Ahead with Barreleye


By Aaron Sullivan, Senior Director and Distinguished Engineer, Rackspace

In an open community, with great partners, it’s amazing how fast things get done.barreleye fish

At the end of 2014, Rackspace announced its affiliation with OpenPOWER. At that time, we shared our intention to build an OpenPOWER server that cut across four major open source community initiatives (OpenStack, Open Compute, OpenPOWER, and, of course, Linux).

This past spring, at the Open Compute and OpenPOWER annual summits, Rackspace offered up our vision for a more powerful cloud, and shared our “Barreleye” server concept design. (We chose to name it after the barreleye fish because as you can see from the photo above, the fish has a transparent head. Get it? It’s open!)


Alpha release of Barreleye server package; lid removed, drive tray extended.

Since then, we’ve worked closely with our partners — Avago, IBM, Mellanox, PMC, Samsung — to make that concept a reality. The first Barreleye servers came online in July, in China. In August, we shipped engineering samples to our San Antonio lab and to our development partners.

Two weeks ago, we showed Barreleye off in its first public forum: a Rackspace-hosted Open Compute engineering workshop.

OCP Workshop

Attendees at last month’s engineering workshop check out the Barreleye, the world’s first Open Compute server with an OpenPOWER chip.


L to R, bottom and top views of “Turismo” 10-core/80 hardware thread OpenPOWER processor.

Our next batch of samples will arrive in November, with more systems going to more partners shortly thereafter. We hope to submit a draft of Barreleye’s Open Compute specification before year-end, and aim to put Barreleye in our datacenters for OpenStack services early next year. Check out some close-ups, below:


Barreleye portable “lunchbox” power supply; enables benchtop testing for those without an open rack.


Barreleye hot-swappable drive tray with 15 SSDs installed.


Alpha release of Barreleye motherboard (top) and customizable IO board (bottom).

Barreleye has the capacity for phenomenal virtual machine, container, and bare metal compute services. Further out on the horizon, we’re looking forward to Barreleye’s successor on the next generation of OpenPOWER chips, and CAPI-optimized services.

Speaking of CAPI, the OpenPOWER Foundation blog is running a series on CAPI, which enables solution architects to improve system-level performance. IBM’s Sumit Gupta writes about accelerating business applications with CAPI, while Brad Brech weighs in on the benefits of using CAPI with Flash.

It’s been an incredible journey thus far. Here are some observations we’ve made along the way:

  • Turns out bugs in open source firmware — even complicated bugs that span many elements — tend to get fixed much faster. The code and functions are not hidden, meaning everyone can get involved.
  • BIOS features. Once you’ve worked with OpenPOWER’s BIOS, you’ll want it on every server.
  • Even in its first year, OpenBMC is showing great potential. Are you in DevOps? Want more control? You’ll get it with OpenBMC. Keep an eye on it.
  • Linux distribution, device driver and adapter firmware support continue to expand. At this rate, it will not be long before mainstream server adapter products are as easy to plug into OpenPOWER as any other server.
  • People are skeptical until they see it, touch it, log into it. Once they do, they’re pretty excited with Barreleye’s very impressive specs, including:
    • The memory bandwidth — around 200 GiB/sec
    • The clock speed — 3.1 – 3.7 GHz, turbo between 3.6 – 4.1
    • The cache — more than 200 MiB
    • The CPU threads — 128 – 192, utilities like “top” and “nmon” show a CPU for every thread. Even on lar