Equinix Joins Open Compute Project, Adopts Wedge Switch

Equinix looks to build out an open source customer ecosystem based on the Open Compute Project and Facebook's Wedge switch in its 145 data center hubs.

Charles Babcock, Editor at Large, Cloud

March 11, 2016

5 Min Read
<p align="left">(Image: Equinix)</p>

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Equinix has joined the Open Compute Project and will make use of Facebook-designed Wedge switches in its international chain of 145 data centers.

The move puts one of the premier data center and telecommunications hub operators behind the Open Compute Project, which has been backed by firms in the financial services industry such as Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, CapitalOne, and Fidelity, but has not seen broader support. All the named firms tend to have large IT staffs.

About 1,100 commercial telecom providers come into the "meet-me" rooms of Equinix data centers around the globe. Equinix in turn connects enterprises to their customers, business partners, and cloud suppliers.

CTO Ihab Tarazi said in an interview that Equinix is working closely with Facebook on implementing the Wedge 100 switch in Equinix data centers, as well as on new designs for the Wedge. The Wedge is a generic hardware switch produced from designs contributed by vendors that can be produced by other vendors.

The Open Compute Project attempts to bring to hardware some of the shared community resources of open source software projects. It was started in April 2011 by Facebook's CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and has been slowly adding new contributed designs and specifications for equipment in modern, large-scale data centers.

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The Wedge 40 is the Open Compute Project's current-generation top-of-rack switch for most users, operating at 40 Gbit/s. It can be produced with different manufacturers' chips and hardware. The more recent Wedge 100 is being produced by Accton using Broadcom's Tomahawk chip.

At 100 Gbit/s, the Wedge 100 switch is ahead of what's in use in most enterprise data centers. Tarazi said the Wedge 100 can serve as much more than a top-of-rack switch, such as the Wedge 40, which moves traffic into and out of a rack full of servers. "It's bigger than that. It's more like telecom-scale type equipment ... It's like a switch for heavy-duty service providers and multi-tenant clouds," Tarazi said.

He said it was too soon to say exactly how it will be implemented in Equinix facilities, but Equinix needs to move large amounts of traffic from enterprise customers to a preferred carrier or from customers through an Equinix hub to cloud suppliers. It also has to switch traffic between a large numbers of carriers that congregate in each data center.

If Equinix finds the Wedge 100 acceptable in its high-volume, high-availability environment, it's likely to spur renewed interest from implementers of virtualized networking and software-defined networking among enterprise network managers. It is a programmable switch with separate data and control planes.

But Equinix is also interested in the Open Compute Project for more than just the Wedge. Tarazi said it wants to build out its own open source-based cloud platform in its data centers to create an ecosystem that it will share with customers. It wants Equinix data centers to run, for example, on Mesosphere and its Data Center Operating System. DCOS is based on the recognized cluster-management software produced by the Apache Mesos open source project.

[Want to see how the Open Compute Project is gaining backers? Read Open Compute: Apple, Cisco Join, While HP Expands.]

In addition to 1,100 telecom carriers, Equinix works with 500 major and regional cloud service providers. If it can get these groups of customers to work with it on additional ease of use and services via an Open Compute Project-based infrastructure, it will have an ecosystem that can produce new ideas and services faster than Equinix can by itself.

It benefits Equinix if its customers thrive in its data centers. "People are moving to microservices and want to take advantage of hybrid cloud. We want to make it possible," Tarazi said. By having a familiar open source-based platform inside its data centers, it hopes to capitalize on the contributions of its own staff and those of customers who want to make greater use of its environment.

Mesosphere's DCOS can aggregate resources into compute, network, and storage pools, which are managed for many customers. With DCOS environment established, Equinix can host and manage as a service an Apache Spark real-time data system, a Hadoop File System, or an Apache Kafka system, Equinix's announcement noted.

Equinix was also impressed by the Open Compute Telco Project launched in January, with several major telecommunications carriers joining up. If telecoms see the Open Compute Project as a way to keep their data center costs down and increase their effectiveness, Equinix doesn't want its own lack of expertise in the field to become a barrier to future business deals. AT&T, Verizon, BT (formerly known as British Telecommunications), and Deutsche Telekom are now members of the Open Compute Project, and are expanding its presence in another vertical industry.

"We need OCP as an architecture for a customer ecosystem," Tarazi said, and as a way to future-proof Equinix against further rapid changes in its industry. Also, with Equinix's recent acquisition of TelecityGroup, it's brought its data center total to 145, some of them built along different patterns. The OCP architecture represents a way to refocus the chain around a shared internal -- and rapidly evolving -- architecture.

About the Author(s)

Charles Babcock

Editor at Large, Cloud

Charles Babcock is an editor-at-large for InformationWeek and author of Management Strategies for the Cloud Revolution, a McGraw-Hill book. He is the former editor-in-chief of Digital News, former software editor of Computerworld and former technology editor of Interactive Week. He is a graduate of Syracuse University where he obtained a bachelor's degree in journalism. He joined the publication in 2003.

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