Facebook Reinvents Data Center Networking
Not satisfied with just changing how the world socializes, Facebook is setting its sights on remaking data center networking.
During Facebook 's remarkable 11 years from launch to 1.44 billion monthly active users as of the first quarter of this year, the social platform outstripped the capacity of existing networks to carry its traffic. So Facebook had to build four data centers at the heart of a global network, and design its own hardware and software, all to make sure that you don't have to wait a moment to see that photo of your nephew's trombone recital.
Facebook turned to its own designs because the service was moving too fast for networking vendors to keep up.
"We try to work fast in terms of rolling out new topologies, new speeds, new features and flexibility. We often [find] ourselves waiting and not moving as fast as we want," Omar Baldonado, Facebook manager of the networking team, tells Light Reading.
Facebook doesn't blame vendors. "We totally understand we have special requirements that are different from the rest of their customer base," Baldonado says. "But vendors weren't meeting Facebook needs."
In addition to speed of innovation, Facebook also wants to be able to disaggregate its network -- to mix-and-match vendor-built hardware products with Facebook's own networking software.
Open source hardware design is key to Facebook's networking strategy, Baldonado says. Open source allows Facebook to collaborate with the community of hardware and software engineers outside its own walls, including other large operators such as Rackspace and Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT).
To that end, Facebook co-founded the Open Compute Project (OCP) in 2011, along with Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC); Rackspace ; Goldman Sachs & Co. ; and Andy Bechtolsheim, co-founder of Sun Microsystems Inc. and Arista Networks Inc. and investor in Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) and other companies. The goal: to further open source data center and networking hardware designs.
The Social Network's network
Facebook has four major data centers around the world. The locations are no secret -- they have their own Facebook pages. The first was Prineville, Ore., opened four years ago in April 2011. Others are located in Altoona, Iowa; Forest City, NC; and Luleå, Sweden.
Facebook augments its data centers with a couple of dozen local PoPs to "extend the edge of the network beyond the data centers," Baldonado says. Some 82% of Facebook users are located outside the US, but the majority of data centers are inside the US, Baldonado says.
In designing its own data centers, Facebook realized early on that networking needed to be front and center. The traditional way to design a data center is to lay out racks and cages for the servers first, and then add networking cables in the remaining space, almost as an afterthought, Baldonado says.
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