Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) is the undisputed leader in the social networking realm, with millions of users all over the world. Aside from having an extremely large user base, the Facebook website is also home to a massive number of photos, videos games and other types of content which means that the website’s data centers should be running really quick to provide a great usage experience to users.
In attempting to achieve extremely fast data throughput from and within their data centers, it seems that Facebook’s push for innovation has resulted in a huge success. The company now has one of, if not the fastest network switch available today in the form of “Backpack” which was unveiled Tuesday at a company blog post.
Computer network industry leaders like Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO) and Juniper Networks (NYSE:JNPR) have been at the forefront of the computer switch for many years now, with these companies developing 40G systems that are used in a multitude of data centers in the world today. Apparently, this is not enough for Facebook which has resulted in Backpack becoming a reality.
Conventional networking switch tech utilizes copper wires as connections within data centers which, while tested and proven technology, is currently limited to 40G speeds. Backpack on the other hand integrates fiber optic connections between switches. This results in the switch being able to facilitate 100G transfers which is 2.5x faster than what networking companies have been able to achieve. This makes Backpack a truly momentous achievement for Facebook, which is not a hardware-first company.
As expected, the company had to go through a lot of hurdles when developing Backpack. Omar Baldonado, Facebook’s Software Engineering on Networking said that “To move from 40G to 100G, there were a lot of challenging hardware and optical and chip-level concerns the team had to address to get that to work”. Apparently, cooling is one major setback as faster chips and data transfers also resulted in high heat levels generated by parts of Backpack, which Baldonado said was similar to “… overclocking a gaming PC.”
Thanks to the company’s huge available resource pool, along with strong relationships with chip manufacturers, fiber optic providers and other related suppliers, Facebook was able to surmount the challenges that Backpack’s creation presented. At present, despite the switch performing 2.5x faster than its predecessor, 6-Pack, it does not consume 2.5x the power and cooling issues were resolved.
While the Menlo Park-based company is not the only one developing 100G tech (LinkedIn is another company that is known to have its own networking systems that will reach 100G), another aspect that makes this achievement even more notable is that Facebook plans to bring its modular Backpack switch designs to its Open Compute Project.
What this means is that Backpack will be open source, allowing virtually any engineer and even other companies to utilize the Facebook-initiated design, to develop their own hyper-fast network switches.
With this move, Facebook hopes to introduce a substantial improvement into data transfer speeds throughout the tech industry, which can potentially translate to a faster and more efficient internet experience for billions of people all over the world.
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