Facebook's 100-gigabit switch design is out in the open

The Open Compute Project has accepted the Wedge 100 design, opening up a hardware-software ecosystem

Facebook’s bid to open up networking is moving up into nosebleed territory for data centers. The company’s 100-gigabit switch design has been accepted by the Open Compute Project, a step that should help to foster an open ecosystem of hardware and software on high-speed networking gear.

The 32-port Wedge 100 is the follow-on to Facebook’s Wedge 40, introduced about two years ago and now in use in practically all of the company’s data centers, said Omar Baldonado, director of software engineering on Facebook’s networking team. Mostly, it’s a faster version of that switch, upping the port speed to 100Gbps (bits per second) from 40Gbps. But Facebook also added some features to make service easier, like a cover that can be removed without tools and LED status lights to check the condition of a the cooling fans from a distance.

The social networking giant needs 100Gbps now at the top of many of its server racks. The company has deployed hundreds of the Wedge 100 switches and thousands of the Wedge 40. Next up is 400 gigabits, Baldonado said.

But Facebook is also trying to make networking more like computing, by promoting standard hardware that’s not tied to built-in software. Its vehicle for this is the networking project of OCP, which Facebook spearheaded several years ago.

Facebook designed the Wedge 100 for its own needs and then submitted it to OCP for review. Based on feedback, it made some changes to serve a broader user base before the design was accepted by OCP. Now the Wedge 100 is officially part of the OCP ecosystem.

Facebook both designs its own hardware and writes its own software, which most companies can’t do. But OCP’s certification lets enterprises choose network hardware and software separately, or at least buy switches with a choice of software. The idea is to make switches like servers, giving users more flexibility. Baldonado admits open networking isn’t that mature yet but says it’s making progress.

Edgecore Networks is now selling a switch based on the Wedge 100 design. (Its parent company, Taiwan's Accton Technology, manufactures the units that Facebook uses.) Several optical transceiver vendors also are interested in making parts for the switch, Facebook says.

Big Switch Networks and Canonical both offer operating systems, and SnapRoute and other vendors have other software to run on the platform.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise also sells an OCP-based switch, and Microsoft, Broadcom and others participate in the project.

Facebook doesn’t promote an open ecosystem just so enterprises can have more choices. The company also wants more developers working on things it could use. It’s evaluating some of those now.

“Now we have options, and we don’t have to build it all ourselves,” Baldonado said.

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