Facebook has just announced the launch of a new top-of-rack network switch code-named “Wedge”, and a new Linux-based operating system for it, code-named “FBOSS”, putting it straight into the Ethernet switch market that is currently dominated by Cisco.
Wedge is part of the Open Compute Project’s (OCP) efforts to disaggregate networking – essentially an effort to break down traditional data center technologies into their core components so that new systems can be built that are more flexible, scalable and thus more efficient.
While traditional network switches (like those offered by Cisco) use fixed hardware configurations and non-standard control interfaces, Wedge leverages Facebook’s existing “Group Hug” architecture, enabling it to use a wide range of microservers from the open hardware ecosystem. Likewise, the open form factor will allow Facebook the option to use a range of processors from the likes of Intel, AMD and ARM.
Because Wedge has the same power and flexibility as a server, it can be employed alongside existing servers and storage, allowing network engineers to focus more on developing new capabilities for the network than on managing existing systems.
As Business Insider reports, Wedge adds to the threat to Cisco that may be larger than its previously announced plans to build a software-defined networking switch (SDN) device as it is already being tested in Facebook’s own data centers – one of the most demanding environments currently available.
The “open source” nature mentioned above extends beyond the range of processors to all the components, and anyone can modify or replace the components to better meet their needs, thus running completely counter to Cisco’s “secret sauce” approach where they control and keep every part of their gear secret.
Worth noting, is that the switch cannot be bought from Facebook, but from a custom manufacturer, just like all other OCP designs.