Facebook Reveals ‘6-Pack’ Switch For The Scalable Data Centre

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Facebook’s calling it the ‘first open hardware modular switch’ and could very well get Cisco’s feathers in a ruffle

Facebook has unveiled its new switch platform that will be installed in the social network’s vision of its own scalable data centre, a vision that it says only itself can build because of its high demands.

Facebook has called the switch platform ‘6-pack’, and Yuval Bachar, Facebook’s top networking engineer, explained in a blog post why the firm’s designed the switch.

Limits

Bachar said: “As Facebook’s infrastructure has scaled, we’ve frequently run up against the limits of traditional networking technologies, which tend to be too closed, too monolithic, and too iterative for the scale at which we operate and the pace at which we move,” said Bachar.

“Over the last few years we’ve been building our own network, breaking down traditional network components and rebuilding them into modular disaggregated systems that provide us with thefacebook flexibility, efficiency, and scale we need.”

6-pack is a full mesh non-blocking two-stage switch that includes 12 independent switching elements. Each independent element can switch 1.28Tbps. We have two configurations: One configuration exposes 16x40GE ports to the front and 640G (16x40GE) to the back, and the other is used for aggregation and exposes all 1.28T to the back.

Common building blocks

With the 6-pack switch platform, Facebook has created an architecture that lets it build any size switch using a set of common building blocks. Modular by design, the technology agnostic, Facebook said it’s a platform which it hopes “the entire industry” can build on.

The 6-pack is built upon a piece of network hardware that Facebook unveiled last year called the Wedge. The Wedge is an actual open-source switch, and Wedges can now be stacked together like bricks onto the 6-pack. As the network grows, more Wedges can be added to the 6-packs, expanding your data capacity.

Facebook is also planning to give the software and hardware designs away for no cost, a move facebookwhich could be worrying for network switch competitor Cisco, which released its fourth quarter results yesterday.

Facebook isn’t planning on selling this hardware, however. It’s all part of its Open Compute Project, where members are modding data centre hardware to make it faster and easier to use.

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