Social networking site Facebook says it has built and is testing its first modular network switch, the Wedge, which it claims will provide the same power and flexibility as a server.
The work on the Wedge has been done by Facebook as part of the Open Compute Project, alongside vendors such as Broadcom, Intel, Mellanox and Accton which also contributed designs for open switches.
Facebook engineers Yuval Bachar and Adam Simpkins say the Wedge switch represents a departure from current networking design paradigms, and aims to run more like the existing OCP servers the company operates already.
To achieve this, Facebook added a "Group Hug" microserver that punts packets inside the Wedge.
This is based on a 64-bit ARM-based AMD Opteron A1100 processor that was announced in January this year and is substantially smaller than the switching backplane form the 16 40 gigabit per second ports.
Facebook said it wants a proper server in the switch to bring the devices into their distributed management systems and run a standard Linux-based operating environment.
The Linux-based operating system for the switch is aptly named FBOSS and uses existing software libraries and systems that manage Facebook's servers. This includes initial installation, upgrades, downgrades and decommissioning of systems in data centres.
Both the Wedge and FBOSS are being tested in Facebook's network at present, ahead of the release of the designs to the OCP so that other members can use them.
The Open Compute Project was launched by Facebook in 2011 and aims to innovate open, scalable data centre technologies, with hardware and software that can be modified and replaced by users.
Beyond server and networking technologies, the OCP is also advancing designs for storage, chassis, power supplies, device racks, energy-efficient, low-loss data centre electricity supplies, as well as cooling of facilities.
Facebook is aiming to build all its new data centres with OCP designs, so as to enjoy benefits of economies of scale as well as rapid deployment, and lowered power usage.