Facebook’s 1.4 billion users may now be aware or interested on it, but the social network is quietly reworking on the essential engines of the Internet. The company is now running on computer networking gear designed by its own engineers.
Not only Facebook but also Google Inc. and other Web giants have shaken up the computer-hardware business by designing their own computer servers to meet their specifications and bypassing the usual hardware manufacturers. Beware, Cisco and Juniper!
Facebook is expanding its assault by introducing its own design for the networking equipment that channels data among its computer and between Facebook’s computers and the internet. Computer servers and networking equipment are two main components that control almost everything users do on their smartphones or Web browsers.
Facebook’s thrust to self-design more hardware is tempting other companies to do the same, which on the other side forces the suppliers like Cisco Systems Inc., Juniper Networks Inc., IBM corp and HP to change what they do.
The threats to Cisco and HP are a windfall to Taiwanese computer-server makers like Quanta Computer Inc., which has reworked its business by catering to the computing demands of the Web giants. Broadcom displaced custom-designed Cisco chips with its networking chips in some cases.
Facebook started down the do-it-yourself networking-equipment path last year with a switch of its own design, powered by Facebook-written software. The system, nicknamed Six-pack will let Facebook build networks by filling large racks with a smaller switch called Wedge. Using its in-house design helped Facebook to reduce spending on infrastructure and upgrade its capabilities without depending on its outside vendors.
Facebook’s ‘Six-pack’ switch is fundamentally six smaller switches snapped together. Basically, the company can build bigger switches from smaller ones, and since they all run Linux, its engineers can manage these switches with the same tools used to manage servers across the network.
Wedge was designed to become a building block for systems to replace more expensive kind of gears and to handle the bulk of traffic in data centers. Najam Ahamad, Facebook’s vice president of infrastructure states that the 6-pack system will replace these systems while encouraging traditional network-equipment makers to change their designs. He claims to look at it as an opportunity and challenge rather than seeing it as a threat. He also states that the company is capable to build and expand its networks with ease and is also open to outside companies to use its designs.