Dialogic Blog

Facebook Looks At Telco Infrastructure From the Ground Up

by Thomas Schroer

Jun 9, 2016 10:30:00 AM


Facebook is at it again. Back in 2011, Facebook formally kicked off the Open Compute Project (OCP) along with companies like Rackspace, Intel, and Goldman Sachs. The intent was to share ideas and figure out ways to build the most efficient computing infrastructure at the lowest possible cost. The various projects were set up in an open source model to help hardware with more efficient, more scalable and more flexible platforms for computing, storage, and networking.  There are now more than 150 member companies such as Apple, Google, and Microsoft, and recently this year service providers AT&T, Deutsche Telekom AG., EE, and Verizon all joined the project as well.

At the recent BCE event in Austin, Facebook was pushing something relatively new: the Telecom Infra Project, or TIP.The stated goal of this project was to “reimagine the traditional approach to building and deploying telecom network infrastructure.” TIP is building on the open, community-led OCP as a model to drive innovation into the traditional telecommunications infrastructure, and has established inaugural projects in three basic areas:

  • Access – The focus here is on system integration and site optimization, access unbundling and media friendly solutions to more cost effectively serve difficult-to-access rural and urban areas and identify methods to improve throughput and the user experience by moving compute and storage resources closer to the network edge
  • Backhaul – Open Optical Packet Transport and high frequency autonomic access activities are the focus of this project that aims to define a Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing (DWDM) open packet transport architecture that avoids implementation lock-ins and a lightweight and extensible software stack for routing, addressing, and security in packet switched IP networks
  • Core and Management – Core network optimization and greenfield network solutions are addressed here by deconstructing and disaggregating traditional core network bundled components and evolving telecom networks from the ground-up to be more efficient and IT-oriented.

I spoke with Hans-Juergen Schmidtke, Director of Engineering Infrastructure Foundation at Facebook, who gave a keynote at BCE in which he emphasized that Facebook did not want to be viewed as a telco. He added that that TIP was started in order to reimagine telco infrastructure, and one of the goals of the project would be to build infrastructure - hardware and software - for the telecom industry and change the concept of innovation in a telco environment.

Facebook initiated Telecom Infra Project is modeled on the successful OCP

The Facebook initiated Telecom Infra Project is modeled on the successful OCP to drive innovation and openness into telecom hardware and software infrastructure

Service Providers and equipment vendors have started to jump on board. EE, SK Telecom, Deutsch Telekom, Globe Telecom, Intel, and Nokia are all initial members. So it seems that the same disruptive approach to the computing and data center architecture is being applied to telecom infrastructure. How will this align with what is going on in the ETSI NFV, OpenStack, 3GPP and other SDOs and open source activities that impact infrastructure functionality and end-to-end service orchestration? Does it even affect them? What innovation is lacking at the communications infrastructure and application layer that this project thinks it needs to address for hyperscale data center environments? The fact that operators are jumping on board along with major players from the vendor community tends to lend credence to this movement. What do you think? Tweet us at @Dialogic and let us know.

Topics: Events, 3G, 4G, 5G, and WiFi, NFV/SDN & Cloud