Facebook Transitions To New Top-of-Rack Switch Code Named Wedge

Facebook’s VP of infrastructure engineering, Jay Parikh, recently revealed that Facebook would be upgrading from their previously used top-of-rack switches, to a new top-of-rack switch named Wedge, along with a new Linux OS to control the switches.

Announcement And Transition

Parikh announced that Facebook has been planning the change for several years, and hopes that this transition will successfully break the larger parts of Facebook’s main data center into smaller components. So far, the company has operated on a “compute, serve, then store” agenda to try and break data down into more manageable bits, but the transition to Wedge is a more aggressive move to make upgrades and fixes to Facebook more easily.

With the transition to Wedge, engineers will be able to upgrade and patch problems with Facebook faster, and with more ease. Wedge will break existing hardware and software down into modules, which will make fixing separate components possible, without having to do system wide upgrades or changes. Parikh pointed out that Facebook is constantly evolving, and because of this, needed a system that could be worked on separately and that could handle constant changes.

Wedge is a 40GB switch, with 16 slots that can expand to 32, and fits a simple standard rack builder.

Beauty of Wedge

The beauty of Wedge is that various parts can be replaced and reconfigured without a disturbance or shutdown of the whole system. Parikh also points out the unique architecture of Wedge, which causes the switch to act more like a server, with greater flexibility and ingenuity.

Facebook is used in a variety of ways, daily; moving photos, keeping track of millions of user profiles, interaction with other social networks like Twitter and Instagram, along with various other social networking tasks. These numerous daily tasks require constant change and upgrading; Parikh pointed out in his address that the fixed structure of previous top-of-rack switches acted more like bindings than building blocks, not allowing for the numerous system changes that Facebook required to run smoothly.

Ultimate Goal

Wedge will ultimately link all of the servers inside of the numerous Facebook data centers, and will “no longer be a switch…just another server,” states Parikh. Facebook engineers constructed their own chassis to house the new technology, and painted them Facebook blue. Wedge will soon be part of the Open Compute Project (OCP), and is guaranteed to set the networking industry on its head; an industry that is still slave to a few specialized makers. With Wedge, Facebook hopes to encourage industries to build their own software distribution, and be able to run it themselves. Choosing to open source the hardware was a further encouragement for companies to put their own spin on Wedge-based switches.

“Requirements are constantly changing,” Parikh pointed out, referring to Facebook. Faced with a seemingly endless need to upgrade and revitalize, the transition to a highly controllable and tactfully integrative networking switch was just what Facebook needed to keep up with the burgeoning social networking frenzy that they are now facing. Because of their ability to think outside of the box, Facebook can stay ahead of the learning curve and remain relevant, while offering the same opportunity to other companies.