Facebook Contributes Products, Strategies to Open Telco Network Effort

The company and other TIP members lay out steps the consortium is taking to bring open-development concepts to the telecommunications industry.

open switch

Facebook and several other tech vendors, including Intel, Nokia and SK Telecom, earlier this year launched an effort to bring the open hardware principles of the company's Open Compute Project to the telecommunications industry.

Now the social media giant and the more than 300 members of the Telecom Infra Project (TIP) are beginning to unveil some of the work they have done to this point, giving the industry an idea of the direction they're heading in. They not only include technologies in such areas as optical networking, but also the launch of a center in South Korea designed to encourage and support startups and smaller companies working on open products for the telco infrastructure space.

In addition, Facebook announced new members to TIP, including Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), Orange, Canonical, Toyota InfoTechnology, Accenture and Bell Canada.

It's all part of the larger goal of driving the development of open hardware and software offerings that will make it easier for telcos to more quickly and affordably build out network infrastructures that are scalable, flexible, dynamic and programmable, necessary ingredients at a time when such technologies as mobility, the internet of things (IoT) and the cloud are increasing demands for more network speed and capacity.

"Facebook's mission is to make the world more open and connected whether developing technology that can help connect the unconnected or creating more immersive experiences that require better connections," Jay Parikh, global head of engineering and infrastructure at Facebook, wrote in a post on the TIP blog. "With video and VR [virtual reality] consumption on the rise, larger, better networks are needed. This is an incredibly large challenge, and in the coming years we'll all need to work together to understand the specific connectivity challenges in each market and develop new technologies and processes to address those challenges."

Facebook started the Open Compute Project (OCP) with the idea of using an open-source development philosophy for data center systems similar to that found around such software as Linux. Hyperscale players like Facebook, Google and Amazon have developed their own data center hardware to meet their particular needs, and Facebook took the next step to open-source much of its work. The work at the OCP over the past several years has expanded beyond servers and into networking and storage equipment, and with TIP, those same ideas are being applied to telco infrastructures.

The OCP effort has put pressure on traditional data center infrastructure vendors like Cisco Systems, and TIP promises to do the same to telco hardware companies like Cisco, Huawei Technologies, Nokia Networks and Juniper Networks.

A key technology contribution from Facebook is "Voyager" (pictured), a transponder and routing offering that essentially takes data from network switches and sends it over optical networks. It's a 1U (1.75-inch) white-box technology that Facebook engineers have been working on in-house, and which the company is now contributing to the TIP community through the consortium's Backhaul: Open Optical Packet Transport project group.

"At Facebook, we believe that a key efficiency is enabling open and unbundled solutions," Parikh wrote. "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 center network stack to open up more flexibility and accelerate innovation, as we previously did with our racks, servers, storage, and motherboards in the data center."