Juniper backs Facebook’s Cisco competitor the Wedge

Juniper has designed its own version of Facebook’s Ethernet switch, the Wedge, in what could become a major headache for Cisco.

The new product, the design of which will be given away for free through Facebook’s Open Compute Project (OCP), has the potential to shake up the $23 billion Ethernet switch market.

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The OCP allows anyone to design and build their own computer hardware and the Wedge could even popularise a new way of designing networks called software-defined networking (SDN). This approach takes most of the features found in networking equipment and incorporates them into software running on servers. This means less networking equipment is needed and what is required will be cheaper, something Cisco has taken note of.

Cisco, like many of its competitors, has developed an SDN switch of its own, but it still operates in a similar way to more traditional Ethernet switches. By contrast, the Wedge, which works with open-source software, is designed to join together standard bits of hardware to provide businesses with more flexible solutions.

Facebook does not want to compete directly with Cisco, but its pursuit of cheaper, more bespoke network equipment may put the industry leader in an uncomfortable position. Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg revealed that using OCP hardware had saved the firm more than $1 billion over the last three years.

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If Juniper’s version of the Wedge does become popular, then Cisco may have to decide whether to abandon its SDN switch, which has cost approximately $1 billion to develop, in order to create an OCP device of its own.