Facebook promises release of own 'modular routing platform'

Zuck Squad thinks it can do SDN for the entire internet with decentralised smarts

Facebook has promised to open source a “modular routing platform” it says powers many of its own networks.

“Open/R” was developed to power Facebook's Terragraph WiFi networks. Now The Social NetworkTM says the more it played with the code, the more it became apparent it was fit for general purpose networking.

The platform looks to offer a different take on software-defined networking and to the development of interoperable networks.

“To create an interoperable standard, the industry's process is often lengthy due to code being built independently by multiple vendors and then slowly deployed to their customer networks,” writes Facebook's Petr Lapukhov. “Furthermore, every vendor has to accommodate for the demands of numerous customers — complicating the development process and requiring features that are not always useful universally.”

Lapukhov and Facebook's alternative is to use bits of open source projects that work – the OSPF and ISIS routing protocols, plus Thrift for the message bus – and to put intelligence all over the network.

“Contrary to other approaches that focus on removing intelligence from the network and placing it in a central controller, we believe that autonomous network functions play an important role,” Lapukhov writes. “Those in-network, autonomous functions are combined with centralized controller logic, such as computing optimum traffic engineered paths, which is how we leverage Open/R in some backbone network applications, replacing the traditional IGP and adding new functionality on top of the basic routing function. Using both centralized and distributed control throughout different domains in our network, often in a hybrid fashion, ultimately helps make the network more reliable and easier to manage.”

Facebook's approach to things is very DevOps-y: Lapukhov's post states that for Facebook, reliability is “a system property that comes from combining network design, operational practices, and the ability to quickly write and continuously deploy new code.” Open/R is designed to allow swift re-configuration of networks.

For now, all we have to go on is Facebook's post, but Lapukhov says the company has an “ultimate goal of contributing them to the open source community and to the Telecom Infra Project (TIP) for use in the broader ecosystem.” With typical modesty, the company also says it thinks Open/R can “improve the speed, efficiency, and quality of internet connectivity around the world.” ®

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