This in itself isn’t very surprising, given that Facebook has often shared technology with the wider community through the OCP, and given that the organization was formed by Facebook. But it’s interesting because it shows that Facebook doesn’t want to keep to itself the infrastructure that enables it to more economically handle data-heavy applications at great scale.
Facebook has deployed hundreds of these switches in production inside its data centers, Omar Baldonado, manager of Facebook’s network team and co-lead of OCP’s networking program, told VentureBeat in an interview. As Facebook builds out new data center infrastructure, it’s equipping racks with these Wedge 100 switches, as opposed to putting them in the place of all the existing Wedge 40 switches with 40-gigabit Ethernet that were previously accepted by the OCP last year, Baldonado said.
Of course, companies can purchase 100Gbps switches from major networking hardware companies, like Cisco and Arista, or they can look to a lesser-known vendor who’s building the type of gear that’s been proven to work in a Facebook-like environment. And sure enough, Accton, one of the more prominent original design manufacturers (ODM) in the data center hardware world, has started to sell the Wedge 100 under its Edgecore brand.
What’s more, companies are already building software that runs on top of this type of equipment. That includes startup SnapRoute’s FlexSwitch software, among others.
Beyond the economic benefits of relying less on longstanding brands, Facebook can also take steps forward because it has more control over its technology.
“I think a lot of it is flexibility and programmability that we get, where we can roll out features more quickly, and bug fixes,” Baldonado said. “We really strive to update our software across our fleet of switches weekly, and the reason this actually becomes even more important at the 100-gig layer is because there’s just that much more traffic going through the network.”
The Wedge 100 not only enables data to travel faster — so that it can keep up with faster computing and storage operations in the data center — it also has a new design that’s easier for employees to deal with inside Facebook’s facilities.
“The top cover can now be removed without tools, providing easy access to switch internals for our data center technicians,” Facebook’s Alex Eckert, Luis MartinGarcia, Reza Niazmand, and Xu Wang wrote in a blog post. “The hot-pluggable fan trays can now be removed by pressing on a clip versus by removing a thumb screw. Additionally, the data center technicians can easily view the fan tray status via a status LED next to each fan tray. The combination of these allows for very quick debug and in field replacement if needed.”
See their full blog post for more detail.
Update at 5:20 p.m. Pacific: Corrected the spelling of Baldonado’s name.