After thoroughly disrupting the social media scene over the past decade, Facebook is now trying to upend the data center networking hardware segment with its super-fast fiber optic switch platforms. After introducing the Wedge 100 to the Open Compute Project last year, the company has now unveiled “Backpack”, the new generation of 100G modular switches for interconnecting the racks within a data center.

The new 100G switches will serve its own data center needs, as well as give third-party developers access to the hardware designs. Facebook, unlike other players in the relatively new yet highly competitive 100G switching space, intends to share its technologies, and has even convinced a manufacturing partner to make these switches in bulk so enterprise and network vendors can buy them.

While the high cost of these switches may be prohibitive for some, their operational cost is actually lower than many similar switches from companies like Cisco and Dell. In addition, Facebook has used a chassis architecture that allows for more air channel space to enhance thermal performance. It also allows for better signal integrity, according to Facebook. They also say that the sophisticated thermal design lets it support the lower-cost 55C optics in addition to 100G ASIC chips and optics.

This is the third network switching product developed by Facebook, after the first-gen 6-Pack and the subsequent Wedge 100. As Facebook moves from 40G to 100G across its data centers, it wants to open its networking technologies to third parties. This itself is a unique approach in a $41 billion cut-throat industry.

As data center requirements grow on the back of increased video and virtual reality content, greater speeds and capacities are required. While enhancing their own data center performance, Facebook wants that technology to be accessible to the public. Of note is the fact that AT&T is using a similar approach to its own technology needs.

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