Facebook Details Voyager And Other Fruits Of Open Network Project


The first Telecom infra Project (TIP) Summit gives an insight into how Facebook plans to build open source networking infrastructure for the industry

Facebook is advancing its telecommunications infrastructure initiative with more collaboration projects, the release of several whitepapers and reference network designs.

The Telecom Infra Project (TIP) is backed by major technology and telecommunications firms like Intel, Nokia and EE, and its members work together on open network technology that can then be used to enhance networks so they can support data intensive applications like virtual reality (VR).

This mimics the approach of the Open Computer Project (OCP), which started in 2011 to stimulate the development of low cost data centre hardware.

Telecom Infra Project

facebook-voyagerThe headline announcement of the first TIP Summit is Voyager – a reference design for Open Packet DWDM networks and the industry’s first ‘white box’ transponder and routing product. Essentially, it allows networks to become more programmable, flexible and upgradable through software.

Voyager will be opened up to one of TIP’s backhaul working groups and has already been tested in a number of markets. Data centre operator Equinix has tested Voyager on 140km of fibre and South African operator MTN has applied it on its commercial network in the country.

Facebook and its partners are working on a disaggregated hardware and software optical network platform for Voyager and ADVA Optical Networking will provide commercial support, including the services and software necessary for wider deployment.

The company is also sharing whitepapers detailing best internal practices and also revealed more details about the OpenCellular project, which aims to create affordable and more advanced open source wireless networks.

Open networking

OpenCellular networks will also be programmable, come with on board compute and storage, and capable of withstanding extreme temperatures. Systems have been tested at Facebook headquarters in California and Facebook wants to get startups involved. To this end, the first ‘acceleration centre’ will open in South Korea next year.

“As the amount of global internet bandwidth required continues to grow, there is major emphasis on how to efficiently deploy fibre both within and between urban and rural areas,” said Jay Parikh, global head of engineering and infrastructure at Facebook.

“At Facebook, we believe that a key to efficiency is enabling open and unbundled solutions. To that end, our networking team has previously developed a series of projects aimed at breaking apart the hardware and software components of the data centre network stack to open up more flexibility and accelerate innovation, as we previously did with our racks, servers, storage, and motherboards in the data centre.

“We have a huge opportunity to move the industry forward to solve the connectivity challenges we’re all facing, and we’re going to have to work together if we want to make the most of that opportunity. I look forward to the continued progress and collaboration from this community.”

Mobile future

NetworkingFacebook has a number of initiatives aimed at boosting mobile coverage in the developing world, where fixed Internet access is scarce or expensive, in a bid to expand its user base. However it has come under fire for its ‘Free Basics’ service which offers certain applications on a ‘zero rate’ basis – i.e. they can be accessed without data costs.

In the UK, EE is looking at open source networks to improve 4G coverage in rural areas and even assist with the future deployments of 5G.

The BT-owned operator has teamed up with Ubuntu and Surrey-based Lime Micro to provide tools for developers to create new applications and services for a mobile network, with the products deployed across EE’s infrastructure.

Lime Micro was founded in 2005 and claims its programmable transceiver is a “world first”. Its technology has been used in a number of Mexican villages deemed to be commercially unviable by local mobile networks, prompting residents to create their own for a few thousand dollars. Because the transceiver can be programmed to work with any wireless standard, and uses open source, the cost of components comes down significantly.

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