Advanced Computing in the Age of AI | Saturday, January 29, 2022

Facebook Unleashes Open/R Networking Software 

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Facebook's network routing software is now available as an open source tool for developing new network applications and functions, the company announced this week.

Open/R is currently used in Facebook's datacenter and backbone networks to support wide-area networks, datacenter fabrics and wireless mesh topologies. "We have been working with external partners and operators to support and use Open/R, and we invite more operators, [Internet service providers], vendors, systems integrators and researchers to leverage Open/R as a platform for implementing new network routing ideas and applications," company engineers announced in a blog post.

Among other things, OpenR is intended to develop new networking routing protocols as current frameworks struggle to keep pace with the explosion of networked devices and functionality. "Open/R is a single platform that spans a wide variety of network domains and designs, and we are looking to apply it in even more use cases," Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) said Wednesday (Nov. 15).

Among the first internal applications of Open/R was combining it with a wireless network called Terragraph. Open/R was designed as a distributed networking platform running on top of a Terragraph network as a way to keep pace with its scale.

More recently, it has been applied to Facebook's datacenter fabrics. Facebook engineers said they have been operating large-scale fabrics using only the Border Gateway Protocol (BGP). "While BGP brings its strengths, especially with respect to policy enforcement and scale, we saw opportunities to improve and simplify the design by having Open/R and BGP work together," they explained.

The open platform is billed as a way to speed network innovation since new approaches can be tested and deployed at scale. "The result would be faster, open networks capable of evolving" along with other hyper-scale technologies, Facebook said.

The Open/R release is part of larger trend among web-scale companies to develop hardware and software for internal use, eventually turning it over to developers to create new applications. For example, Oracle (NYSE: ORCL) announced in September it would release the enterprise version of Java to an open-source foundation.

About the author: George Leopold

George Leopold has written about science and technology for more than 30 years, focusing on electronics and aerospace technology. He previously served as executive editor of Electronic Engineering Times. Leopold is the author of "Calculated Risk: The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom" (Purdue University Press, 2016).

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