Facebook crashes into networking with open switch

Puckering ensues at Cisco, Juniper, Brocade


Not content with shaking up storage and servers, Facebook is creating an open source switch to help it save money on networking equipment and stop it being dependent on technologies pioneered by any single company.

The switch was announced by Facebook's infrastructure czar Frank Frankovsky in a keynote speech at Interop on Wednesday, and it seeks to remove much of the proprietary elements that have typically defined networking gear. We're sure Cisco, Juniper, and Brocade will be pleased.

The "aim is to produce a completely open sourced hardware switch, as well as being OS agnostic," Frankovsky told us. With the switch, the OCP hopes to "break the current appliance model. Most switches today have a tightly integrated software solutions."

The switch specification is being defined by the community at present, and full hardware should be available in nine to 12 months, Frankovsky said. Development will be steered by Facebook's networking chief Najam Ahmad.

VMware, Big Switch Networks, Intel, Broadcom, OpenDaylight, the Open Networking Foundation, Netronome, Cumulus Networks and Facebook have already signed up to participate in designing the specification and fleshing out the design, and more are expected to join.

"Since we've been envisioning this people have been coming out of the woodwork looking to support this project." Frankovsky said.

As with storage and servers, it's certain that incumbent data center equipment suppliers will belch forth a cloud of FUD in response to the announcement.

Facebook has been motivated to get into networking so it need not "be beholden to a black box solution," Frankovsky said. "I've always wondered why we don't think of switches as servers within a rack that don't just happen to have a lot I/O ports on them – really what we're talking about is a bare metal switch that should appear on the network like any other server."

After the switch specification has been firmed up, Frankovsky indicated that Facebook could go even further into networking, and may even dramatically revamp how the network is distributed through a rack.

I don't want to sound like I know what the future will hold, but I think one of the natural reasons for why the networking project makes sense for OCP at this time is that the lines between network and server within the rack are going to be blurring further than they've blurred so far

The Open Compute Project scheme was founded by Facebook and is motivated by a desire by service providers to rid themselves of a dependence on proprietary gear in an attempt to draw greater efficiencies from their hardware than ever before. This has put the frighteners on the traditional IT industry, and caused a wave of commitments to openness by IT giants – claims that are more ambition than fact at the moment.

But much of what Facebook does with its infrastructure comes from the huge scale at which the social network operates, and so Facebook's OCP designs may not necessarily fit the needs of smaller providers. But Facebook thinks the OCP design methodology – stripped down gear, with a minimum of proprietary components – could become the dominant design approach for large technology operators.

"What OCP is promoting is what we believe is a leading indicator of what mainstream IT consumers desire longer term, whether they consume it themselves or through someone else's." ®


Other stories you might like

  • Cisco execs pledge simpler, more integrated networks
    Is this the end of Switchzilla's dashboard creep?

    Cisco Live In his first in-person Cisco Live keynote in two years, CEO Chuck Robbins didn't make any lofty claims about how AI is taking over the network or how the company's latest products would turn networking on its head. Instead, the presentation was all about working with customers to make their lives easier.

    "We need to simplify the things that we do with you. If I think back to eight or ten years ago, I think we've made progress, but we still have more to do," he said, promising to address customers' biggest complaints with the networking giant's various platforms.

    "Everything we find that is inhibiting your experience from being the best that it can be, we're going to tackle," he declared, appealing to customers to share their pain points at the show.

    Continue reading
  • If you're using older, vulnerable Cisco small biz routers, throw them out
    Severe security flaw won't be fixed – as patches released this week for other bugs

    If you thought you were over the hump with Patch Tuesday then perhaps think again: Cisco has just released fixes for a bunch of flaws, two of which are not great.

    First on the priority list should be a critical vulnerability in its enterprise security appliances, and the second concerns another critical bug in some of its outdated small business routers that it's not going to fix. In other words, junk your kit or somehow mitigate the risk.

    Both of these received a CVSS score of 9.8 out of 10 in severity. The IT giant urged customers to patch affected security appliances ASAP if possible, and upgrade to newer hardware if you're still using an end-of-life, buggy router. We note that miscreants aren't actively exploiting either of these vulnerabilities — yet.

    Continue reading
  • Meta mostly fails in appeal against order from UK watchdog to sell Giphy
    Might have been a good idea to mention that Snap was sniffing around GIF biz, too, judges note, though

    Judges in the UK have dismissed the majority of an appeal made by Facebook parent Meta to overturn a watchdog's decision to order the social media giant to sell Giphy for antitrust reasons.

    Facebook acquired GIF-sharing biz Giphy in May 2020. But Blighty's Competition Markets Authority (CMA) wasn't happy with the $400 million deal, arguing it gave Mark Zuckerberg's empire way too much control over the distribution of a lot of GIFs. After the CMA launched an official probe investigating the acquisition last June, it ordered Meta to sell Giphy to prevent Facebook from potentially monopolizing access to the animated images. 

    Meta appealed the decision to the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT), arguing six grounds. All but one of them – known as Ground 4 – were dismissed by the tribunal's judges this week. And even then only one part of Ground 4 was upheld: the second element.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022