Google, Facebook clash steps up in data centre networking space
Google and Facebook are set to unveil their visions of data centre networking, likely both similar and competing, at the Hot Interconnects event in August. Google will host the event, which includes talks from a wide variety of communications luminaries on hot topics in communications such as innovative uses for flash memory and the proliferation of silicon photonics.
Amin Vahdat, a Google Fellow and the search giant's technical lead on networking, will open the event with a talk on network virtualisation and software-defined networking (SDN). Google helped spawn industry work on SDN at Stanford that has spun off into the Open Networking Foundation, an ad hoc group setting standards for SDN around its Openflow protocol.
SDN aims to lower the cost and simplify the management of networking by running tasks in software on merchant processors such as x86 servers. A year ago, Google shared its work on an SDN implementation for its internal network linking its data centres including a homemade router. At Hot Interconnects, Vahdat will give for the first time "an overview of the design and architectural requirements to bring Google's infrastructure services to external customers with the Google Cloud Platform."
Separately, Yuval Bachar, a hardware networking engineer at Facebook, will give a talk on the social networking giant's view of data centre networking. Bachar is responsible for Facebook's Wedge Switch project, a concept for an open-source networking system for SDN.
Bachar spent more than 10 years in various roles at Cisco including a stint as a senior director of architecture and strategy in a group CTO office. He also spent more than two years as a group CTO at Juniper and has been with Facebook for less than a year.
The two keynotes show how large data centres are increasingly in the driver's seat when it comes to laying out the tech road map in communications. The big web server sites are now said to represent as much as 20 per cent of all server sales and thus live on the bleeding edge of work in distributed networking.
Two related talks will give chip vendors' perspectives on SDN.
A Freescale fellow and chief software architect will talk about how the Openflow protocol can be used with network-function virtualisation (NFV), a separate but related effort driven by carriers. A director of strategic planning from Avago's LSI group will discuss control plane interconnects for SDN and NFV.
The conference will also host a half-day tutorial on SDN.
A handful of talks at the event will shine a light on silicon photonics, an emerging technology expected to drive high-speed networking initially for next-generation data centres.
The head of silicon photonics at Mellanox will give an invited talk. Mellanox is one of several vendors, including Intel and Cisco, which have been working on silicon photonics for applications such as 25G links inside server racks and between switches. It's aiming to roll out products as early as this year.
Andy Bechtolsheim, a veteran Silicon Valley entrepreneur and co-founder of switch maker Arista Networks, will give an invited keynote. Bechtolshiem has long promoted silicon photonics as a key technology for enabling widespread use of the latest 100Gb/s links on network switches.
In addition, Richard Grzybowski, CTO at Photonic Controls, will give a talk on the readiness of EDA tools and process development kits for creating the kinds of system-in-package devices silicon photonics requires. Separately, researchers from Columbia University will describe models that show "silicon photonic interconnects can sustain very high loads (over 100Tb/s) with low energy costs (< 1pJ/bit)...[but may] come at a relatively high energy cost."
David Patterson, chair of the computer science department at Berkeley, will describe in a keynote a new kind of server design based on novel use of flash memory. Patterson was co-author of a widely used textbook on microprocessor design and has pioneered concepts ranging from RAID disk drives to computer clusters.
In another keynote, communication pioneer John Cioffi will describe novel ways of measuring the quality of an Internet connection. Cioffi was an early developer of digital subscriber lines, a widely deployed means for delivering broadband communications over the common copper wires used by telephone companies.
- Rick Merritt
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