Telecom Giants Join Facebook's Open Compute Project As Pressure Mounts For Cisco

Telecom heavyweights joined Facebook's Open Compute project (OCP) on Wednesday, bringing more heft to the social media giant's crusade to bring low-cost data center gear to the masses and potentially jeopardizing Cisco's dominance in the carrier infrastructure space.

U.S.-based AT&T and Verizon, German carrier Deutsche Telekom, British mobile network operator EE and South Korea’s SK Telecom signed on to back Facebook's foundation for open-source data center design.

By enlisting telecom giants, OCP is putting the pressure on networking giant Cisco. Carriers are among Cisco's biggest customers of its routing and switching data center hardware, and the vendor stands to see sales slump if telecoms start to favor open-source hardware.

[Related: Facebook Takes Aim At Cisco, Juniper With Open Source Top-Of-Rack Switch ]

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OCP is an ecosystem of vendors, service providers and organizations working together to create a set of data center best practices, specifications and open-source technology aimed at lowering the footprint of data center facilities. OCP members include companies such as Apple, Microsoft, Rackspace and Intel.

Instead of buying from traditional IT hardware vendors, OCP is encouraging companies to use its power-efficient software designs on generic hardware that can be purchased from hardware manufacturers like Quanta for a cheaper price tag.

While IT hardware vendors like Cisco and Hewlett Packard Enterprise could take a hit, joining OCP is a win for carriers who will be able to virtualize their networks faster, said Darryl Senese, vice president of carrier services for Atrion Networking, a Warwick, R.I.-based IT solution provider that partners with both AT&T and Verizon.

As an OCP member, telecoms could employ open standards and more efficient methods within the data centers they own to meet customers' requirements, Senese said.

"By going to open standards, virtualizing and modernizing their backend systems, [carriers] will be able to drive their costs down and more effectively manage customers' networks," he said.

As carriers weigh the decision to stay in or leave the data center business, a more open-source approach to data center design could help these providers modernize their facilities and innovate, which will help keep them competitive, Senese said.

Dallas-based AT&T has said it will virtualize 75 percent of its network functions by 2020, and Basking Ridge, N.J.-based Verizon is also experimenting with commodity switches within its data centers.