Facebook has introduced a top-of-the-rack networking switch that it said has server-like capabilities, a development that has come out of the Open Compute Project.
Wedge, which is the switch's codename, is supported with a Linux-based operating system, this time codenamed FBoss.
Facebook launched the Open Compute Project two years ago and set about creating low-cost and efficient computing systems that could rival other, off-the-shelf options.
"We started a project at Facebook over two years ago with a pretty big goal: to build one of the most efficient computing infrastructures at the lowest possible cost," Facebook explained.
"By releasing Open Compute Project technologies as open hardware, our goal is to develop servers and data centres following the model traditionally associated with open-source software projects."
Fresh entrants Wedge and FBoss are discussed on the Facebook engineering pages and are said to bring new levels of control and analysis to the data centre.
"We're big believers in the value of disaggregation – of breaking down traditional data centre technologies into their core components so we can build new systems that are more flexible, more scalable and more efficient," the firm said.
"These projects break down the hardware and software components of the network stack even further, to provide a new level of visibility, automation and control in the operation of the network. Wedge and FBoss are currently being tested in our network. We plan to propose the designs for Wedge and the central pieces of FBoss as contributions to [the project] so others can start consuming the designs and building on them."
Facebook said it has given Wedge many of the features that you would associate with a server, and has made it customisable and open to chips from Intel, AMD and ARM, for example.
"Traditional network switches often use fixed hardware configurations and non-standard control interfaces, limiting the capabilities of the device and complicating deployments. We chose to leverage our existing 'Group Hug' architecture for modular microservers, which enables us to use a wide range of microservers from across the open hardware ecosystem," Facebook said.
"By using a real server module in the switch, we're able to bring switches into our distributed fleet management systems and provision them with our standard Linux-based operating environment. This enables us to deploy, monitor, and control these systems alongside our servers and storage – which in turn allows our engineers to focus more on bringing new capabilities to our network and less on managing the existing systems."
While Facebook does not plan to sell the Wedge switch itself, it is offering the hardware to the community.
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