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June 20th, 2014 FACEBOOK, HARDWARE none Comments

FACEBOOK NETWORKING SWITCH PRESSURING CISCO SO WE HAVE CHEAPER MACHINES

Open design Facebook's Wedge image www.socialselect.net

Facebook has introduced an open design for a networking hardware, moving the technology industry toward cheaper machines and threatening incumbents such as Cisco and Juniper.

The switch, which routes internet traffic, was accompanied by software for better handling of web loads. Facebook found that it became necessary to build its own hardware as the business expands, Jay Parikh, vice-president of infrastructure engineering, said.

“We’ve done this for racks, for the compute part of it, for storage and for other parts of infrastructure but there is this other lingering part, the network,” Parikh said at an industry event. “We were running into just a lot of things that slow us down.”

The open-source switch design is the latest move by the world’s largest social-networking service to upend the technology infrastructure business. Since 2011, Facebook has been working with partners to develop more efficient and low-cost computing systems. The company shares its findings via an initiative called the Open Compute Project, with the designs reducing the money spent on machinery by paring components and software to only what’s needed for specific functions. That has enabled others to make their own cheaper servers and storage, pressuring industry incumbents that sell those products

The fallout has been evident. IBM in January bowed out of the low-end server business by selling it to Lenovo. Hewlett-Packard’s sales of servers and storage systems have been declining since 2011.

The trend of moving away from brand-name equipment in the networking space “has been question No.1 on the minds of many investors any time the data centre market comes up for discussion,” said Jeffrey Kvaal, an analyst at Northland Securities Inc. who has the equivalent of a buy rating for Cisco. “This is another bit of evidence to suggest that the trend is gaining further momentum.”

Wedge

Facebook’s switch is called Wedge and is embedded with a microserver, so it looks and operates more like a server, the company said. The software is a Linux-based operating system to manage Wedge and keep track of a device’s performance.

“Our goal is to help an industry, not to harm it,” said Matt Corddry, director of hardware engineering at Facebook. “We’re hopeful that they, through the Open Compute Project, join in to the innovation surrounding networking.”

Cisco, the biggest network-equipment maker, views open-source network switches as being attractive only to “a small, highly resourced subset of the overall IT market,” David McCulloch, a spokesman for the company, wrote in an email. Hidden expenses for labour and additional software licenses raise the cost of operating the devices beyond some Cisco products, McCulloch said.

“While the open-source switch approach is definitely not for everyone, I want to be very clear that we know this segment of the market (largest internet players) very well, and we intend to retain and grow these customers by addressing their needs,” for more customisable networking equipment, McCulloch said.

Facebook, like Google and Amazon, started designing its own hardware to save money and handle an increasing volume of internet traffic. It now owns four data centres filled with custom-made machines.

Chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has said Facebook saved $1.2 billion by using Open Compute-based equipment instead of products from established manufacturers.

Facebook’s hardware group has so far designed and ordered hundreds of thousands of its own servers, with the company last year spending $1.36 billion on its own data centres, more than double from $606 million in 2011. The company relies on manufacturers such as Quanta Computer instead of buying from lead server makers such as Hewlett-Packard and Dell.

The company’s ambitions may be broader. Corddry didn’t rule out the possibility of Facebook designing its own chips.

“More broadly, we look for areas where we believe we can make a step-change improvement or change the discussion in a given industry,” he said. “I wouldn’t rule out anything from Facebook.”

Henry Sapiecha

black diamonds on white line

Yo app logo image www.socialselect.net

A new app that lets you send an image of the word ‘yo’ or ‘yoyo’ has rocketed up the charts and was being downloaded faster than Facebook’s new photo sharing app Slingshot overnight in the United States.

The app has surpassed Facebook’s heavily promoted new product in Apple’s App Store and it’s been downloaded almost 10,000 times in the Android app store.

Invented by software engineer Or Arbel, the app is either an alarming indictment of the foolishness of the tech start-up movement or the ultimate testament to the power of focus and simplicity.

YO App creator Or Arbe image www.socialselect.net

App creator Or Arbel

Unsurprisingly, Mr Arbel claims it’s the latter.

“If you think this is just an app that says ‘yo’, you are getting it wrong,” Mr Arbel told Mashable. “It’s a new way to get lightweight, non-intrusive notifications. We are here to cut through the noise. We like to call it context-based messaging.

Mr Arbel said it’s a way to play with ‘context-specific’ communication, similar to how the word ‘mate’ can be a term of genuine warmth or a passive aggressive warning.

The app has already raised more than $US1 million from several investors.

The app was inspired by Mr Arbel’s former boss at photo sharing app Mobli, Moshe Hogeg, who wanted an app that functioned like a summons button for his assistant.

He scoffed and said it was a silly idea he could build in two hours. It took him eight and he launched it quietly on April Fools’ Day this year. Apple originally declined to list the app as they assumed it was an incomplete draft.

The app’s popularity skyrocketed after a blog post on The Financial Times tipped off the world to its presence.

While much of the commentary has been scathing, it has been well received by some, particularly in start-up hot-spots like Silicon Valley.

“There’s a fascinating aspect lots of people are missing,” tweeted entrepreneur and investor Marc Andreessen while outlining the potency of a “one-bit communication, a message with no content other than the fact it exists.”

“I’m not saying Yo will be the next $100 billion social media powerhouse. But instant dismissal makes little sense. Let’s learn and keep minds open.”

He also likened Yo to calling a friend’s phone and hanging up quickly so the notification serves as a free message.

Mr Arbel has moved from Tel Aviv to San Francisco. He’s seeking more investors, hiring a team and working on the app full time, although he’s already ruled out adding new features.

Henry Sapiecha

black diamonds on white line