On Tuesday it revealed several details of its plans.
This includes a new computer network product invented at Facebook which it will freely share with the world, as well as a plan to design a new open source cellular wireless network.
Specifically, Facebook announced on Tuesday a piece of network equipment known as an optical switch that it named Voyager. (In geek speak, this is the first “white box” transponder and routing device for Open Packet DWDM optical networks.)
Optical networks are very-high-speed networks that transfer data using light pulses, rather than conventional copper wires. A “white box” is a generic piece of computer equipment that costs far less than the big brand names.
In addition to the Voyager device, Facebook is also giving away as an open source project the files for a project called OpenCellular. The goal of that is to create a new open wireless ecosystem, Facebook says.
As Facebook’s Jay Parikh, head of infrastructure and engineering at Facebook, wrote in his blog post:
“Facebook’s mission is to make the world more open and connected whether developing technology that can help connect the unconnected or creating more immersive experiences that require better connections. With video and VR consumption on the rise, larger, better networks are needed. This is an incredibly large challenge, and in the coming years we’ll all need to work together to understand the specific connectivity challenges in each market and develop new technologies and processes to address those challenges.”
This is all part of Facebook’s new Telecom Infra Project (TIP), announced in February and created in the image of its uber successful Open Compute Project project. OCP creates “open source hardware” for the data center, where engineers from differing companies work together to freely design the gear they want and need.
OCP was born five years ago and has obtained a “cult like” following in its world that is now inspiring other internet companies, like LinkedIn, to design all of their own networks and data center equipment, too.
As we previously reported, when Apple refused to join OCP last year, its entire network team quit Apple the same week. (Apple later did join OCP.)
That ex-Apple team launched a startup, called SnapRoute, led Jason Forrester, that offers open source network software based on their work at Apple.
That SnapRoute software is also powering this new Facebook Voyager switch. (SnapRoute also just ousted Hewlett Packard Enterprise from leading a networking software project it founded, too.)
Through OCP, Facebook has invented its own servers, storage drives, data center racks and network switches and inspired a booming eco-system of other software, gear and startups around it, particularly the computer network stuff, a market currently dominated by Cisco.
So now, Facebook has turned its attention on disrupting the telecom equipment market and the vendors that dominate it like Huawei, Alcatel-Lucent, Ciena, Cisco, Fujitsu, Juniper Networks and others.
On top of that, Facebook has launched a a telecom accelerator in Seoul, a city known for its advanced telecommunications, in conjunction with SK Telecom. The idea is to encourage people to launch telecom tech startups. Facebook says this is the first such accelerator but not the last.
Given the run-away success of OCP, TIP has already attracted a lot of attention.
Facebook is holding its first industry conference for TIP members on Tuesday where it announced these new devices. A bunch of new members have joined, too, including Bell Canada, du (EITC), NBN, Telia, Telstra, Accenture, Canonical, and Hewlett Packard Enterprise, among others.
More than 300 companies are already part of TIP, Facebook says.
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