Anyone Can Now Build Facebook’s Data Center Switch
A collage of profile pictures makes up a wall in the break room at Facebook’s data center in Forest City, North Carolina. (Photo by Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images)

Anyone Can Now Build Facebook’s Data Center Switch

Social network open sources Wedge design through Open Compute Project

The design of Facebook’s top-of-rack data center switch the social network created in-house to fit its hyperscale needs is now open source, meaning anyone can use it to build switches through a design manufacturer.

All details needed for any manufacturer to produce the switch are now open source, including the schematic, a detailed list of materials, and other files. The design is distributed through the Open Compute Project, the open source hardware and data center design initiative Facebook started in 2011.

Wedge 40, the 40-Gig switch announced last year, was the first switch Facebook designed to bring more flexibility to the way it builds and manages its data center networks. Its most important aspect is disaggregation between switch hardware and software that runs on it – different from closed networking bundles traditionally sold by big vendors like Cisco, HP, and Juniper.

Because those traditional switches are “black boxes,” customization is limited, and companies like Facebook, Google, and Amazon -- companies that build data centers at massive scale -- customize a lot of their infrastructure for efficiency and for their specific applications.

Facebook has also created an open source Linux-based operating system for its switches, called FBOSS. A networking software company called Big Switch has an Open Network Linux image that provides everything you need to run FBOSS on Wedge, meaning a fully open source, programmable data center networking solution is now available.

Wedge and FBOSS behave more like server hardware and server software, meaning the company’s data center managers can deploy, monitor, and control switches the same way they manage servers and storage.

Facebook has now scaled Wedge in production, with several thousand of these top-of-rack switches running in its data centers. “Eventually, our goal is to use Wedge for all our top-of-rack switches throughout all of our data centers,” Facebook engineers Jasmeet Bagga and Zhiping Yao wrote in a blog post.

Wedge is a building block in Six Pack, another data center switch Facebook designed. It is a higher-capacity aggregation switch that enables the company to create a custom network fabric in its data centers. Six Pack puts 12 Wedge switches in a chassis along with fabric cards.

The company is already working on the next generation of Wedge. Wedge 100 will be a 100-Gig switch designed to handle higher speeds and more complexity, Bagga and Yao wrote.

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