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Facebook Unveils Server-Based Open Switch Solution

Chloe Shi 0

Last year, Facebook announced its plans to develop an open, operating-system agnostic switch to provide a more flexible and cost-effective alternative to networking, challenging the likes of traditional manufacturers like Cisco, Juniper, Brocade, etc. Last week, at the Gigaom Structure Conference in San Francisco, Facebook announced the development of its own top-of-rack (TOR) networking switch, codenamed “Wedge,” and accompanying Linux-based operating system called FBOSS, which they will be contributing to the Open Compute community once fully developed.

The announcement was made by Facebook’s VP of Infrastructure, Jay Parikh, who explained that the technology was developed in a response to the need by the social media giant to streamline its networking operations and run it in the same modular and agile manner as their servers, which are driven by the principle that ultimately software applications require hardware that is equally flexible, repurposable and responsive to business requirements.  “We were running into things that slowed us down and didn’t give us the flexibility we wanted,” said Parikh.

The disaggregation of the networking software from the hardware allowing the use of commodity hardware is the basis for the SDN (Software Defined Networking) movement (like the ONOS Cloud Switch), and Facebook had collaborated with various networking companies such as Broadcom, Intel and Mellanox on the switch platforms with Cumulus Networks and Big Switch Networks contributing their software. Specifically, Facebook wanted the switch to be based on the x86 architecture so that it would mimic the operations of a server and allow multiple switch operating systems to run on bare metal.

The result is Wedge, a 1U 40Gb 16-port switch built using Broadcom’s Trident II ASIC which can easily be expanded to 32 ports with a throughput of 640 Gbps. The 40Gb ports can be further split (via cables) into 64x 10Gb ports. For processing, the Wedge currently features an Open Compute “Group Hug” microserver based on an Intel processor (very likely an 8-core Avaton C2000), but Parikh stated that the Wedge was designed to accept other kinds of processor modules (such as ARM) once the development is there.

Facebook Wedge Hardware Design

The Wedge switch will be managed by FBOSS, Facebook’s homegrown Linux-based operating system, while the primary function of FBOSS is to manage the hardware platform and allow for the easy deployment of software solutions to boost the performance of the network. According to a blog post by Facebook engineers, Yuval Bachar and Adam Simpkins, “The service layer in ‘FBOSS’ allows us to implement a hybrid of distributed and centralized control. We ultimately want the flexibility to optimize where the control logic resides, which in turn will allow us to get higher utilization on our links, troubleshoot easier, recover from failure faster, and respond more quickly to sudden changes in global traffic.”

Other features of FBOSS will include monitoring and system performance metrics such as cooling fan behavior, internal temperatures and voltage levels to help administrators accurately determine power usages and efficiency as well as performance.

FBOSS Features

The Wedge/FBOSS combination is currently being tested in Facebook’s hyperscale network, with Facebook planning to release the Wedge hardware design along with core FBOSS components to the Open Compute community. Just the fact that the social media giant is putting so many resources and faith in this project is great news for the SDN movement, as companies along various verticals are interested in the promise of a software defined network that provides unprecedented flexibility and programmability (not to mention cost savings), but want to see it first implemented and tested in a real large-scale production environment.

So why are we at AMAX excited about this announcement? Because we’ve long seen the pain points of traditional tier 1 networking appliances and the introduction of a software-defined network running on commodity hardware, with support for an open API programming model makes sense. From the feedback of our customer base including Fortune 500 companies running global data centers, networking makes up a large percentage of their overall data center costs and has simply not evolved as quickly as compute and storage technology. Software-defined allows engineers to program and have better control over networking function and performance, while not having to wait for switch companies to develop features that they need immediately for their operations.

AMAX currently features open switching and SDN support with its CloudMax™ Converged Cloud Infrastructure solution, featuring commodity switches and AMAX ONOS (Open Networking OS) software based on Broadcom’s field-proven Fastpath technology, which has 75+ million network ports deployed. While an x86 switch platform similar to the Wedge will be released in the upcoming months, ONOS is currently compatible and deployed with switches featuring the Broadcom Trident+ and Trident II chipsets.

AMAX Converged Cloud Infrastructure Solution

Has your organization considered using an SDN solution for your networking infrastructure or are you currently using this type of solution? Is this the future of networking or a step in the right direction?