Facebook Takes Aim At Cisco, Juniper With Open Source Top-Of-Rack Switch

Facebook has unveiled a top-of-rack networking switch that it plans to make available as an open source hardware design through its Open Compute Project.

Jay Parikh, Facebook's vice president of infrastructure engineering, unveiled the switch -- called "Wedge" -- onstage at the GigaOm Structure conference in San Francisco on Wednesday.

Facebook is now testing the Wedge switch in its own data centers, according to a report from GigaOm.

Wedge is a 40-GB switch with 16 ports that is expandable to 32 ports. When put into a rack, the switch will have split cables to feed 10 GB down to each server, Parikh said at the event.

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[Related: Microsoft Joins Open Compute Project, Open Sources Cloud Server Hardware Designs ]

Facebook sees the flexibility of the Wedge design as a key to scaling its global infrastructure, said Parikh.

Parikh said adding an Intel chip to the Wedge switch makes it act as a server that runs a Linux OS that Facebook developed in-house. Called FBOSS, the OS interacts with the switching chassis to handle the work of moving packets from one place to another, Parikh said.

By releasing an open source design for the top-of-rack switch -- one of the most common pieces of data center infrastructure -- Facebook is aiming to effect the same sort of disruption on networking hardware vendors like Cisco and Juniper as the OCP has had on server vendors.

Facebook is well known for running its massive operations with custom-built software running on commodity servers. But where does hardware fit into this strategy?

"We really think about our stack as a full stack," Parikh said at the event. "Our software teams work side by side with our hardware and data center teams. It's not hardware versus software."

Facebook founded OCP in 2011 to promote open-source principles in data center hardware design for greater efficiency. Facebook, by developing open source server designs, has saved $1.2 billion in infrastructure costs, Parikh said at the event.

OCP is now an industry consortium with more than 150 members. Microsoft joined in January and contributed a hardware design for one of the servers it uses to run the Azure cloud.