Facebook is turning the normal relationship between network operators and vendors upside down. Is this a lead that service providers will follow, and if so, how far?
Traditionally, carriers signed a contract with a vendor, and the vendor provided everything and told the carrier what to do to keep its network running. It's like the relationship between your grandparents and their doctor -- the doctor told them to do something and they just did it, without asking questions or seeking a second opinion.
Now, leading carriers like AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and Telefónica SA (NYSE: TEF) are partnering with vendors to virtualize networks with SDN and NFV. They're demanding accountability and asking questions and looking to play multiple vendors against each other.
But Facebook takes network leadership to the extreme. We talked with Omar Baldonado, manager of the social network's networking team, who described how Facebook has embraced open source and even applied open source principles to hardware, designing its own switches, writing networking software and even designing the data centers themselves.
Will service providers do the same? At least one analyst doesn't think so. Heavy Reading Analyst Roz Roseboro says that designing and managing network equipment is a huge personnel and education investment, one that carriers will be reluctant to jump into.
Still, Facebook provides an example to carriers of best practices for high-capacity networking, as well as how to use pressure from open source to keep proprietary vendors on their toes.
Find out how Facebook is building its own networks and leading global networking in a new Prime Reading report: Facebook Reinvents Data Center Networking.