It's official: Microsoft is contributing cloud server designs to the Open Compute Project (OCP), an industry-wide initiative Facebook kicked off to tackle the challenge of scaling computing infrastructure in an efficient, economical way.

Bill Laing, a corporate vice president of Cloud Enterprise at Microsoft, delivered a keynote address on Tuesday to 3,000 attendees at the Open Compute Project Summit in San Jose, Calif. During the presentation, he announced that Redmond is signing on to the open collaboration.

Laing also announced that the company is contributing what it calls the Microsoft cloud server specification: the designs for the most advanced server hardware in Microsoft data Relevant Products/Services centers delivering global cloud services like Windows Azure, Office 365, Bing and others. He expects it to foster more efficient data centers and the adoption of cloud computing.

How the Blueprints Help

“The Microsoft cloud server specification essentially provides the blueprints for the data center servers we have designed to deliver the world’s most diverse portfolio of cloud services,” Laing said. “These servers are optimized for Windows Server software and built to handle the enormous availability, scalability and efficiency requirements of Windows Azure, our global cloud platform.”

Laing went on to say that the blueprints offer “dramatic” improvements over traditional enterprise server designs: up to 40 percent server cost savings, 15 percent power efficiency gains and 50 percent reduction in deployment and service times. He also expects this server design to contribute to Microsoft’s environmental sustainability efforts by reducing network cabling by 1,100 miles and metal by 10,000 tons across its base of 1 million servers.

“Microsoft is the only global cloud provider to publicly release these server specifications through OCP, and the information we are sharing is highly detailed. As part of this effort, Microsoft Open Technologies Inc. is open sourcing the software code we created for the management of hardware operations, such as server diagnostics, power supply and fan control,” Laing said. “We would like to help build an open source software community within OCP as well.”

What It Means for Microsoft

As Laing notes, the effort aligns with Microsoft’s cloud OS strategy. We caught up with Zeus Kerravala, a principal analyst at ZK Research, to get his take on the company’s move to join the Open Compute Project. He told us it’s consistent with the open-friendlier Microsoft.

“Microsoft has embraced openness and understands that openness creates a rising tide. They get an awful lot of lift from an awful lot of boats,” Kerravala said, noting that it was an important step in the right direction given Redmond’s big picture.

“If you look at Microsoft’s last earnings report, almost all the profits came from their traditional legacy software business Relevant Products/Services -- Exchange, Windows and Offices -- and very little revenue contribution came from the other product categories that they have," he said. "If they are going to become a mobile cloud-driven company, it’s important for Microsoft to build ecosystems around those platforms. Quite frankly, in those areas they don’t have the same monopoly-like mindshare they do with cloud computing.”