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Facebook Wedge switch still a curiosity in the enterprise

The latest version of the Facebook Wedge switch raises the hardware's throughput to 100 Gbps. But the networking gear remains a non-enterprise technology.

Facebook has released to the Open Compute Project the second generation of its top-of-rack switch that remains an industry oddity without much impact on the mainstream enterprise market.

Facebook announced the 100 GbE Wedge 100 this week, about two years after introducing the first Wedge, a 40 GbE model. The internet company has significantly raised the speed of the Wedge switch to keep pace with traffic demands on the social network, which a quarter of the world's population uses.

While the switches are important to Facebook, they have had no impact on the networking technology purchased by mainstream companies. "After two years, Facebook's work hasn't moved the needle for enterprises," said André Kindness, an analyst at Forrester Research.

What the Wedge switch lacks is software that would serve the needs of a corporate data center, which is smaller and runs different business applications than Facebook's hyperscale facilities. To meet the demands of its applications, Facebook has developed an operating system for the Wedge called FBOSS.

What's in the latest Wedge switch

The Wedge 100 is similar in design with the previous version. Both are basic ToR switches with a merchant application-specific integrated chip (ASIC). They are also modular, which means companies have the option of swapping out components, such as the ASIC for alternative silicon.

After two years, Facebook's work hasn't moved the needle for enterprises.
André Kindnessanalyst, Forrester Research

Edgecore Networks Corp., which is owned by Taiwanese company Accton Technology, sells the Wedge 100. The leaf-spine switch fits an industry standard 19-inch rack. The switch has 32 100 GbE ports.

The Edgecore Wedge switch is unlikely to compete with Cisco, Juniper Networks Inc. and other traditional networking vendors for enterprise sales. However, the product, along with others based on designs certified by the Open Compute Project (OCP), fits the data centers of public cloud providers, which account for a growing share of the switch market.

Public cloud providers will account for almost 63% of the $37.4 billion that companies will spend on cloud environments this year, according to IDC. Total spending on the cloud will rise by just over 16% from 2015.

Meanwhile, Cisco and other traditional vendors are selling to a shrinking market. Infrastructure spending on non-cloud networks will drop 1.8% this year, IDC reported. While declining, mainstream networking gear still accounts for the largest share of the overall market at 63%.

Enterprises watching OCP

Facebook founded OCP in 2011 to develop cloud-networking gear using an open source model. OCP membership today includes Google, Microsoft and some of the largest financial institutions, all of which are on the cutting edge of networking.

The group has developed technology that moves services into software, which can reconfigure the network to meet application changes much faster than the proprietary hardware found in most enterprises.

"Many enterprises express more than passing interest in network disaggregation and other network innovations from OCP, but they lack the skill sets to adopt and manage the technologies," said Brad Casemore, an analyst at IDC.

Technology with more enterprise appeal than OCP's could come from Open19, a project introduced this year by LinkedIn, which Microsoft intends to acquire for more than $26 billion. Open19 develops open source technology that lowers the cost of networking gear that fits into a standard 19-inch server rack. The group's membership includes Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Hyve Solutions and Mellanox Technologies, which are also members of the OCP.

Open19's enterprise-friendly technology includes defining a switch that uses 25 Gbps dual coax connectivity to the ToR switch with standard cabling and connectors, said Peter Christy, an analyst at 451 Research, based in New York City.

"[Open19] delivers real value," Christy said. "I'm not [sure] I understand the comparable benefits of Wedge."

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