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Facebook Open Sources Its Routing Platform

Facebook announced today that it has open sourced Open/R, a homegrown routing platform the company uses in its backbone and is rolling out to its data center networks.

Facebock originally designed Open/R as a shortest-path routing system to support Terragraph, the company's multi-node wireless network for bringing high-speed internet to underserved urban areas. When Facebook engineers presented Open/R at a conference last year, they said they planned to open source the platform, as they've done with their other networking initiatives.

"While traditional routing protocols have been instrumental to the progress of technology in the past few decades, we are approaching the point where networks need to evolve even faster. Open/R is an open platform that makes it easy to rapidly test and deploy new ideas at scale, making our networks more efficient, quicker to deploy, and easier to manage," Facebook engineers wrote in a detailed blog post Wednesday.

"We strongly encourage network operators, researchers, vendors, engineers, and the overall networking community to use Open/R to implement their ideas and build modern networks that are more open and can evolve faster than ever."

Facebook said the platform supports WANs, data center fabrics, and wireless meshes as well as a range of hardware and software. "Open/R provides a platform to disseminate state across the network and allows new applications to be built on top of it," Facebook engineers wrote.

The social media giant has worked with other companies to bring Open/R to production, both inside and outside of Facebook. The platform runs on Arista and Juniper routing systems, and a wireless ISP, WiLine Networks, uses it.

In a blog post earlier this year, Greg Ferro of Packet Pushers, wrote that Facebook's method for replacing routing protocols with a message bus was thought-provoking.

"I’m doubtful that wider networking market would adopt something that doesn’t have BGP in the solution but Facebook has the resources to develop something like this and prove that it works," he wrote.

Facebook has made it a habit to share its networking designs, including its Wedge switch, Edge Fabric traffic control system, its FBOSS open switching software, and parts of its network troubleshooting system, NetNORAD.

The company has led the charge on open networking by developing alternatives to traditional proprietary network gear with tightly integrated software and hardware. The trend is popular among web-scale companies, but has yet to make many inroads into the enterprise.

You can read all the details about Open/R in Facebook's blog post.