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Facebook's Open Compute Project starts to crack networking

Stephen Lawson | March 12, 2015
The Open Compute Project says it has broken tight bonds between hardware and software that have kept networking closed for decades -- and it took less than two years.

Also on Tuesday, Broadcom released the Open Network Switch Library, which gives developers access to the SDK (software development kit) for the company's StrataXGS switch silicon.

This is a major breakthrough, according to Najam Ahmad, Facebook's director of technical operations. Switching is done by custom chips that take years to develop, so even designers of open switches need to turn to silicon vendors like Broadcom. For truly open networking, developers have to be able to program those chips, and that requires access to an SDK, Ahmad said. Until now, Broadcom required a license for its SDK. "You can get a box, but you can't program it without the license," he said.

The open library is good news for FBoss, the software that Facebook wrote to run the Wedge, because FBoss works through Broadcom's SDK to talk to the switching chips, Ahmad said.

Facebook hopes OCP creates a broad ecosystem of networking vendors that it can tap into to solve problems in the future. The company estimates that OCP technology and related efficiency work have saved it $2 billion in infrastructure costs. The Wedge switch and its software are already in production use in Facebook data centers, Baldonado said. "If you're one of the 1.4 billion users of Facebook, odds are you're going through FBoss."

 

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