Facebook Reveals Open Source, Modular Switch for Datacenters

This week Facebook Inc. unveiled the "6 pack" -- a new "open hardware," modular network switch, which the company is calling the first of its kind.

Facebook had previously created a network switch called "Wedge," which it says is serving as the base building block for the new 6-pack.

The 6-pack offers companies "12 independent switching elements. Each independent element can switch 1.28Tbps."

"Each element runs its own OS on the local server and is completely independent, from the switching aspects to the low-level board control and cooling system," the company said in a blog post announcing the new switch. "This means we can modify any part of the system with no system-level impact, software or hardware.

"On the '6-pack' line card we leveraged all the 'Wedge' development efforts (hardware and software) and simply added the backside 640Gbps Ethernet-based interconnect," the company continued. "The line card has an integrated switching ASIC, a microserver, and a server support logic to make it completely independent and to make it possible for us to manage it like a server."

Many more details about the 6-pack and how it runs are available in the blog post.

According to Facebook, it plans to have 6-pack become a contribution to the Open Compute Project.

In November Facebook also announced "data center fabric," its datacenter networking architecture solution that uses BGP4 as its sole routing protocol. 

About the Author

Becky Nagel is the vice president of Web & Digital Strategy for 1105's Converge360 Group, where she oversees the front-end Web team and deals with all aspects of digital projects at the company, including launching and running the group's popular virtual summit and Coffee talk series . She an experienced tech journalist (20 years), and before her current position, was the editorial director of the group's sites. A few years ago she gave a talk at a leading technical publishers conference about how changes in Web browser technology would impact online advertising for publishers. Follow her on twitter @beckynagel.