Facebook Launches Open-Source Switch, Tests Drone Internet
High-flying drone aircraft will provide Internet connectivity to rural areas of the world; new switch a challenge to standard networking vendors.Google has its automated cars, robots and space-related projects. Facebook also has some side projects of its own. The giant social networking company followed up publicly June 18 with updates on a couple of long-range projects: It officially launched an open-source switch called Wedge it has developed through the Open Compute Project and is moving right along on using high-flying drone aircraft to provide Internet connectivity to rural areas of the world. While onstage at the annual GigaOm Structure conference in San Francisco, Facebook Vice President of Infrastructure Engineering Jay Parikh revealed that the Menlo Park, Calif.-based company is now testing the use of the unmanned flying devices to bring the Internet to more people--and thus, more potential Facebook users--via infrared lasers. Side Projects Aimed to Sustain Facebook Beyond Social Network
Back on March 28, Facebook acquired a high-altitude, long-endurance plane company, U.K.-based Ascenta, for $20 million to beam the Internet from high above to previously unserved locations. Parikh told attendees at the conference that the engineering team is now complete and in high gear working on the project.
Facebook Director of Hardware Engineering Matt Corddry told eWEEK that the goal is to use Wedge to "disaggregate the different resources onto our network, and you'll see this design pattern in a lot of what we do. You saw this in our storage, when we attached OpenVault to a network using a microserver. "Our approach is sort of disaggregation through the network hardware. By making a switch into a server, effectively, we allow Facebook to use our server-based tool chain--operating system, management and monitoring systems, deployment systems--as well as providing an open software development environment for our software engineers. They can innovate on the software switching platform." Members of the four-year-old Open Compute Project (OCP) are seeing what others have when looking at the increasingly virtualized data center: that networking continues to be the bottleneck in an otherwise more dynamic, scalable and flexible environment, and that non-standard hardware and software is needed to fix the problems. Specialized Data Center Hardware Now Required Web 2.0 companies such as Facebook, Google and Amazon run massive, dense data centers that handle huge amounts of small workloads. The keys to such data centers include performance, energy efficiency, low cost and modular design. Unable to always find the exact data center resources they need, some of these companies are opting to design their own servers, storage appliances and power supplies using off-the-shelf components. They're also doing the same with the network, with some opting for equipment from white box makers and, like Google, embracing the OpenFlow controller protocol, which is a key component of many SDN efforts. Google reportedly also created its own switch, dubbed Pluto. eWEEK editor/reporter Jeff Burt contributed to this story.