Up next for the Open Compute Project: The Network


By Frank Frankovsky - Chairman/President, Open Compute Project


A little more than a month ago, the Open Compute Project celebrated its two-year anniversary. When Facebook first launched the project, it was our hope that we could spark more conversation and more collaboration around the development of efficient data center technologies. The OCP community has since grown to 50+ official members and thousands of participants; we've launched a foundation to guide the project; and we've started to advance open designs for everything from racks and storage boxes to motherboards and interconnects.


This is amazing progress in such a short span. But something's missing. We are working together, in the open, to design and build smarter, more scalable, more efficient data center technologies -- but we're still connecting them to the outside world using black-box switches that haven't been designed for deployment at scale and don't allow consumers to modify or replace the software that runs on them.


With that in mind, we are today announcing a new project within OCP that will focus on developing a specification and a reference box for an open, OS-agnostic top-of-rack switch. Najam Ahmad, who runs the network engineering team at Facebook, has volunteered to lead the project, and a wide variety of organizations -- including Big Switch Networks, Broadcom, Cumulus Networks, Facebook, Intel, Netronome, OpenDaylight, the Open Networking Foundation, and VMware -- are already planning to participate. Work on the project will begin in earnest at the first-ever OCP Engineering Summit, being held at MIT on May 16.


It's our hope that an open, disaggregated switch will enable a faster pace of innovation in the development of networking hardware; help software-defined networking continue to evolve and flourish; and ultimately provide consumers of these technologies with the freedom they need to build infrastructures that are flexible, scalable, and efficient across the entire stack. This is a new kind of undertaking for OCP -- starting a project with just an idea and a clean sheet of paper, instead of building on an existing design that's been contributed to the foundation -- and we are excited to see how the project group delivers on our collective vision.


At the last Open Compute Summit, we talked about the importance of disaggregation, of separating the components of these technologies from each other so we can build systems that truly fit the workloads they run and update those components independently of each other, on an as-needed basis. But the promise of disaggregation -- a promise that's been made since the days of the mainframe -- can truly be delivered on only if we work together, in the open, to establish common standards that everyone can adopt and build upon, from the bottom of the hardware stack to the top. And with the addition of this new project, the OCP community now has an opportunity to do exactly that.