- Thomson Reuters
On Tuesday, it revealed several details of its plans.
This includes a new computer-network product invented at Facebook that it will freely share with the world, as well as a plan to design an open source cellular wireless network.
Specifically, Facebook announced a piece of network equipment known as an optical switch, which it calls Voyager. In geek-speak, this is the first “white box” transponder and routing device for Open Packet DWDM optical networks.
Optical networks are very-high-speed networks that transfer data using light pulses rather than conventional copper wires. A white box is a generic piece of computer equipment that costs far less than the big brand names.
In addition to the Voyager device, Facebook is also giving away the files for a project called OpenCellular. The goal is to create a new open wireless ecosystem, Facebook says.
As Jay Parikh, head of infrastructure and engineering at Facebook, wrote in a blog post:
“Facebook’s mission is to make the world more open and connected whether developing technology that can help connect the unconnected or creating more immersive experiences that require better connections. With video and VR consumption on the rise, larger, better networks are needed. This is an incredibly large challenge, and in the coming years we’ll all need to work together to understand the specific connectivity challenges in each market and develop new technologies and processes to address those challenges.”
This is all part of Facebook’s Telecom Infra Project, announced in February and created in the image of its uber-successful Open Compute Project. OCP creates “open source hardware” for the data center, where engineers from different companies work together to design the gear they want and need.
When Apple refused to join OCP last year, its entire network team is said to have quit Apple the same week. Apple later joined OCP.
That team launched a startup called SnapRoute, led by Jason Forrester, that offers open source network software based on its work at Apple.
That SnapRoute software is also powering the new Facebook Voyager switch. SnapRoute also just ousted Hewlett Packard Enterprise from leading a networking software project HPE founded.
Through OCP, Facebook has invented its own servers, storage drives, data-center racks, and network switches, and has inspired a booming ecosystem of other software, gear, and startups around it – particularly the computer network stuff, a market currently dominated by Cisco.
Now Facebook has turned its attention to disrupting the telecom equipment market and the vendors that dominate it, such as Huawei, Alcatel-Lucent, Ciena, Cisco, Fujitsu, Juniper Networks, and others.
It has already gained some big partners to help it, too. For instance, global data center company Equinix is working with Facebook and TIP to test and use Facebook’s Voyager inside two of its big international data centers. Equinix could become a big reference that will encourage others to join TIP and maybe try Voyager.
On top of that, Facebook has launched a telecom accelerator in Seoul, South Korea, a city known for its advanced telecommunications, in conjunction with SK Telecom. The idea is to encourage people to launch telecom tech startups. Facebook says this is the first such accelerator, but not the last.
Given the runaway success of OCP, TIP has already attracted a lot of attention.
Facebook held its first industry conference for TIP members on Tuesday where it announced these new devices. A bunch of new companies have joined, too, including Bell Canada, du, NBN, Telia, Telstra, Accenture, Canonical, and Hewlett Packard Enterprise, among others.
More than 300 companies are already part of TIP, Facebook says.