Facebook Wedges 6-pack Switch into SDN Market

Facebook isn’t likely making many new friends among the big established networking vendors with its announcement today of the new 6-pack open hardware modular switch. The new 6-pack modular switch builds on Facebook’s existing top-of-rack Wedge switch and its Linux-based network operating system FBOSS.

In a post, Yuval Bachar, hardware networking engineer at Facebook, explained that the 6-pack uses the Facebook Wedge top-of-rack switch as a core building block.

The 6-pack has 12 independent switching elements, with each element able to support up to 1.28 Tbps. That gives the 6-pack chassis up to 15.36 Tbps of switching capacity. Facebook has two basic models: one that has all of the switching capacity at the back, and the other with 16x40GbE in the front and 16x40GbE in the back.

While all that power is packed into a platform, Facebook is emphasizing modularity, with each switching element running its own operating system instance.

“Each switching element contains a full local control plane on a microserver that communicates with a centralized controller,” Bachar wrote. “This configuration, often called hybrid SDN, provides us with a simple and flexible way to manage and operate the network, leading to great stability and high availability.”

Facebook has been leading efforts to help open up network design since at least 2013, when the Facebook-led Open Compute Project publicly announced its networking effort.

Facebook isn’t the only vendor that has been active in Open Compute for networking. Juniper Networks announced in December 2014 that it would be building an Open Compute hardware switch called the OCX 1100.

The 6-pack platform isn’t yet part of the Open Compute Project’s specifications, but it will be soon.

“We plan to propose the 6-pack design as a contribution to the Open Compute Project, and we will continue working with the OCP community to develop open network technologies that are more flexible, more scalable, and more efficient,” Bachar said.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at Enterprise Networking Planet and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

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