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Facebook Wedge 100 vs Cisco: The Big Switch?

At Cisco Partner Summit in 2007, then CEO John Chambers predicted that web scale companies like Google could emerge as the networking company’s top rivals. He was partially right. Instead of Google, the biggest Cisco threat could be Facebook’s Wedge switch and related software over the long haul.

Indeed, Facebook continues to build and enhance its Wedge Switch and FBOSS — a network operating system that leverages Linux. In a blog post last week, Facebook wrote:

For our part, last year we introduced our top-of-rack (TOR) network switch, Wedge, along with FBOSS, Linux-based software for controlling switches. Thousands of Wedges have now been deployed throughout our data centers, and we’re pleased to announce that the Wedge design was recently accepted by OCP. Wedge is generally available for ordering by anyone in the networking community, and its designs are open for all to review and customize.

So far, so good. But Facebook isn’t stopping there. The company is also working on network monitoring tools, and eventually hopes to “use Wedge for every top-of-rack switch throughout our data centers.”

Facebook Wedge 100: Coming Soon

An even faster switch and more software also are under development — including the so-called Wedge 100 (a 32x100G switch) that Facebook will share with the networking community “soon.” Also, watch for 6-pack, which “uses Wedge as its foundation and stacks 12 of these Wedges in a modular and nonblocking aggregation switch,” the social network says.

I don’t expect Facebook to build a channel partner ecosystem — at least not in the traditional sense. The bigger: Will third-party startups and consulting firms begin to embrace Facebook’s networking blueprints, and somehow build “white box” businesses that complete with Cisco?

No doubt, Cisco isn’t waiting around for an answer to that question. Cisco’s embrace of SDN (software defined networking) and its converged data center strategy have mitigated the white box threat, former CEO John Chambers said in May 2015.

Cooperate and Compete

chuck robbins

Chuck Robbins

More recently, current Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins in October said Cisco would co-exist with white box network infrastructure. “We’re going to actively curate a highly engineered specialty set of ASICs with applications on top. But we’re also going to embrace open,” added Cisco CTO Zorawar ‘Biri’ Singh, at the time, as reported by LightReading.

Still, open source projects and their communities have a habit of evolving on their own — in directions few folks could have anticipated. Facebook seems committed to continued Wedge and 6-pack enhancements. Whether that translates into a real threat against Cisco remains to be seen.

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