Two years ago, Mark Zuckerberg and company turned the hardware world on its head when they launched the Open Compute Project, an effort to improve every aspect of the modern data center and share the results with the world at large. They began by “open sourcing” fresh designs for computer servers and power systems and cooling equipment. Then they did the same with hardware that stores massive amounts of digital data. Then they remade the racks that hold all these machines. And now it’s time for the networking gear.
The idea is to design a networking switch that anyone can load with their own operating system — just as you can load your own OS on a computer server. Typically, networking switches are sold by hardware giants such as Cisco and HP and Dell, and they ship with software specific to the company that designed them. But Facebook aims to separate the hardware from the software.