Service Provider Cloud

Facebook Opens 'Area 404' Hardware Lab

Facebook opened a 22,000-square-foot hardware lab at its California offices, consolidating research that had been located all over the world. Engineers at the lab, dubbed "Area 404," will work on data center, networking, connectivity and virtual reality hardware.

The goal is to put the cloud provider's engineers in one place to facilitate collaboration and innovation, according to a post on the Facebook blog.

The name of the lab, "Area 404," comes from the error code that appears when a web server can't locate a page. Facebook's engineering teams had been unable to find a suitable collaboration space, until now, the company says.

Turn, Turn, Turn
The Area 404 lab includes this lathe for making complex parts that would otherwise need several pieces of equipment.
The Area 404 lab includes this lathe for making complex parts that would otherwise need several pieces of equipment.

"With this new space, we can now handle the majority of our modeling, prototyping and failure analysis in-house, decreasing each iteration of the development cycle from weeks to days," Facebook says. "Even more important, the space has room for all teams, with more than 50 workbenches in the main area. Connectivity Lab, Oculus, Building 8 and our Infrastructure teams can now work collaboratively in the same space, learning from one another as they build."

"Building 8" is a Facebook team developing new connectivity hardware products. (See Facebook Hires Top Tesla Exec for 'Building 8' Lab and Facebook Snatches Ex-DARPA Head From Google.)

Among the projects slated for Area 404: infrastructure such as switches, storage and racks; connectivity such as Facebook's Aquila drones and Terregraph and Project ARIES wireless networking; and virtual reality equipment, including the Facebook Surround 360 camera and Oculus prototypes.

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Facebook includes slideshows in its blog post of the lab and the projects being worked on there.

Facebook has emerged as a leader in developing open source data center and networking hardware design to enhance connectivity. That's an unlikely role for a company that brings you your high school classmates' crazy political rants and relatives' baby pictures. But Facebook says it needs to strain the limits of data center technology and connectivity to bring all that information to its users, who number more than 1 billion and growing. (See Facebook: TIP Will Open Telecom Hardware.)

Facebook says, however, that it's not trying to compete with service providers. Rather, by developing technology and releasing it as open source, Facebook says it's looking to help service providers provide better connectivity, thereby making the Facebook experience better for its users and keeping the social platform -- and its profits -- growing.

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— Mitch Wagner, Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, Editor, Light Reading Enterprise Cloud

danielcawrey 8/5/2016 | 3:08:52 PM
Re: Impressive Facebook knows that advertising is not the one true pathway towards the future. I think they believe VR is, which will be interesting to see develop. Virtual reality still seems a long way off, but the company wants to be a big part of that future. 
Marcel97 8/5/2016 | 4:16:23 AM
Impressive at first, Facebook has looked for code optimization. The result was HipHop for PHP which reduce CPU usage. Now, research about datacenter, great !
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