Facebook just launched another assault on Cisco


mark zuckerberg

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook's head of engineering, Jay Parikh, just announced that Facebook is working on a second, faster networking switch in its ongoing effort to invent a whole new kind of computer network.


It's another lob thrown at market leader, Cisco, following up on the news of the first switch, released in last spring.

The new switch is a 100-gigabit switch, which is lot faster than the first one, Parikh told attendees at Structure tech conference going on this week in San Francisco.

In March, Facebook released a 40 gigabit switch.

Facebook's new 100G switch won't be a shock to Cisco, as it's been rumored for a while, but it still won't be making Cisco happy. Cisco is the world's largest maker of network switched, and it's right now fighting what it calls "white box" switches, of which Facebook's is a prime example.


These switches perform well and can cost less, because they move fancy features from the hardware and into software.

Giving and selling to anyone who wants it

Facebook isn't just inventing this device for its own internal use. It is helping these switches become commercially available products from contract manufacturers for anyone to buy.

Facebook also invented and is freely sharing its own software to run the switch (an equally important part) called FBOSS.

Facebook Wedge switch


Facebook Wedge switch

Plus, Facebook made its switch compatible with commercial software from two startup competitors to Cisco, Cumulus and Big Switch.

The ultimate goal is to make networks faster and more open, so customers don't have to wait for the vendor to change things but can do hack their own network gear themselves.


This is increasingly important in the cloud computing world, where data centers and networks change fast.

Facebook is also donating the designs for its switch to the Open Compute Project, as it's done with all off the hardware it invented.

OCP is an open source hardware consortium Facebook launched a couple of years ago that has since became a major force in the hardware industry. It's a group of hardware customers and hardware manufactures that is doing for the data center what Linux did for software.

All OCP designs are free for anyone to take, use, and modify. Then companies can get the modified hardware built by an increasingly large roster of manufacturers who are certified to build OCP designs.

Like all open source projects, community members tend to share their tweaks and ideas back to the community and it's just one big kumbaya for folks running big data centers.


Facebook Wedge switch


Facebook Wedge network switch

Facebook says it's been its own guinea pig with its first switch and is now using it extensively.

"In the past year, we have scaled our Wedge and FBOSS deployment in production at Facebook from a few switches to several thousand," writes infrastructure team members Jasmeet Bagga and Hans-Juergen Schmidtke wrote in a blog post about the new switch.

OCP still spreading like wildfire

In addition to the new switch, Facebook announced some new progress with its OCP project. Nokia, which makes a lot of hardware for the telecom industry, has now joined.

In addition, more big profile customers are starting to use and buy OCP hardware.

The Department of of Energy plans to use OCP-based high-performance computers in three national laboratories (Los Alamos, Sandia, and Lawrence Livermore), manufactured by Penguin Computing. Yahoo Japan will use OCP hardware and Open Stack (a free open-source software built by another consortium of vendors).


More vendors are starting to offer more versions of OCP's network switches. In March, there was only one, Accton. Two new switches from Mellanox are now approved.

And Facebook is also working with network startup Big Switch Networks to improve the free and open source version of Facebook's network switch software.

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