Light Reading

Facebook in Production Testing of Open 'Wedge' Switch

Mitch Wagner

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. -- Hot Interconnects -- Facebook is in production testing of its open Wedge switch design, and is on track to contribute the design and software to the Open Compute Project.

Wedge is a "top-of-rack" (small, simple, low-cost) switch with 16 (or 32) 40Gbit/s Ethernet ports, designed to be the "first building block" of the "Facebook disaggregated switching technology," according to a presentation here by Facebook Network Architect Yuval Bachar.

It will be Facebook's first switch contribution to the OCP. It runs FBOSS, a Facebook operating system based on Linux, and can be managed using server tools.

Bachar described the architecture as "hybrid SDN" -- SDN-like, but with some intelligence in the control plane.

"Disaggregation" refers to Facebook's design philosophy "of breaking down traditional data center technologies into their core components so we can build new systems that are more flexible, more scalable and more efficient," Bachar and Adam Simpkins said in a blog post introducing the Wedge switch two months ago.

Facebook needed to build its own switch because it needed more agility than vendors can provide. Facebook changes its requirements on a three-month cycle, faster than OEMs can move. Facebook needs a switch specific to its own data and scalability needs. The company runs hundreds of thousands to millions of servers, Bachar said.

Wedge is not just another white box, Bachar stated; it's the industry's first fully open switch, in both software and hardware. It is standards-based, Ethernet-only, and integrates with the Open Compute architecture, with its subsystem built using the Group Hug computing architecture to which Facebook has contributed.

The Whole Enchilada
The Wedge switch incorporates 16 ports, scalable to 32; two power supplies, one fan; a main board made for CPU rather than graphics processor, and a microserver on top. Source: Facebook.
The Wedge switch incorporates 16 ports, scalable to 32; two power supplies, one fan; a main board made for CPU rather than graphics processor, and a microserver on top. Source: Facebook.

Server-like management and provisioning makes the Wedge particularly suitable for data center environments, Bachar said.

The Wedge builds on work Facebook has been doing with the Open Compute Project to create "open designs for racks, servers, storage boxes and motherboards," Bachar and Simpkins said in their blog post.

Want to know more about SDN? Visit Light Reading's SDN technology content channel.

The Wedge rides a couple of trends driving the networking industry today: SDN, of course, changes the network by putting intelligence in software rather than hardware. That threatens incumbents, especially Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), which profit from selling proprietary hardware. Plenty of companies are already in the SDN market, but Facebook is a powerful contender wherever it plays.

Also, network managers are looking to use more sophisticated data center tools to manage their networks. The Wedge, because it runs a server operating system, offers that potential.

— Mitch Wagner, Circle me on Google+Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profileFollow me on Facebook, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading. Got a tip about SDN or NFV? Send it to

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User Rank: Light Sabre
8/31/2014 | 6:00:36 PM
Re: FBOSS: The Forbin Project
This would be a great innovation in the os realm but I wonder if Facebook can pull this up. I wonder how successful was their last integration with linux: Facebook home.
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/29/2014 | 7:04:36 PM
Outside the DC
Where would its first application be?
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/28/2014 | 11:19:34 AM
FBOSS: The Forbin Project
Sounds like Facebook is building an autonomous OS!

With "FBOSS," we can also leverage existing Facebook tools for environmental monitoring that give us insight into the systems' performance, like cooling fan behavior, internal temperatures, and voltage levels. These details allow us to accurately determine power usage and efficiency, performance, and predictive maintenance.

Eventually maybe they'll plug us all into it, along with our Friends!

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