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Facebook's new switching platform completes 100 Gb data center pod

Facebook has completed its open source 100 Gb data center pod. The technology for hyperscale data centers includes a second-generation modular switching platform called Backpack.

Facebook has contributed to the open source community specifications for a 100 Gb data center pod, which is an engineered system that includes inbuilt virtualization, systems management, storage and networking.

The social media company announced this week the completion of the pod. The final component is a second-generation modular switching platform called Backpack.

Facebook has contributed specifications for all of the pod's components to the Open Compute Project (OCP), an industry group Facebook founded in 2011 to share and develop data center hardware. OCP members include large telecommunication companies, cloud providers and financial institutions.

The new pod is the core data center system in Facebook's migration from a 40 Gb networking infrastructure to 100 Gb. While the latter would be overkill for many enterprises today, it's critical for Facebook.

A quarter of the world's population uses the site to share pictures and video with friends and family. The growth in video is a major driver of Facebook's pursuit of higher networking speeds. Facebook is promoting the use of video to encourage people to spend more time on the site, which makes it more valuable to advertisers.

What's in the Backpack switching platform

The Backpack switching platform is the successor of 6-pack, which Facebook introduced in February 2015. The more robust Backpack includes a better cooling system to support 100 Gb ASICs and optics.

Facebook built Backpack and 6-pack using a disaggregated architecture that clearly separates data, control and management planes. The switching platforms run Facebook's FBOSS operating system and OpenBMC system management software. Facebook has contributed both technologies to OCP.

In October, Facebook introduced the top-of-rack (ToR) switching component of its 100 Gb networking infrastructure. The Wedge 100 is similar in design to its 40 Gb predecessor. Both are no-frills ToR switches with a merchant ASIC.

Facebook-developed technology, as well as other designs certified by the OCP, serves the needs of hyperscale data centers. The facilities of cloud providers will account for almost 63% of the $37.4 billion companies will spend on cloud infrastructure this year, according to IDC. Total spending on the cloud will rise by just over 16% from 2015.

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