Facebook net systems head says operators must embrace SDN

NICE, France--Telecoms operators should embrace software-designed networks (SDN) and focus on training their staff to think more about software, according to the head of the net systems team at Facebook.

Speaking at the SDN & NFV 2014 summit here on Tuesday, Omar Baldonado advised operators to "just go ahead and get started--bring on software developers, start bringing on that talent."

Baldonado noted that SDN is a long journey that will not be achieved overnight. "This is a big thing for your people," he told an audience of telecoms operators and vendors. "This is different...People say it sounds so radical, but you have to accept that it's a transition, an incremental thing."

Baldonado is responsible for the implementation of SDN at Facebook and welcomes the innovations it brings as a way to make programming the network easier. He conceded that Facebook "has a simpler" problem here than telecoms operators as it does not have the wealth of legacy network assets that any long-serving operator will have.

Nonetheless, Facebook does have its own network challenges and has only just started on its own SDN journey. "We have our own legacy," he said. "We have our own hardware and we have to do our own transitions."

Baldonado commented that people often seemed surprised that Facebook has its own infrastructure, but pointed out that the social networking giant has plenty of its own long-haul optical fibre, data centres, routers, switches and so on.

"This is a beast for us to operate," he said. "Facebook has a lot of traffic!"

Baldonado said Facebook is embracing SDN and has three main requirements for this innovation: programmability, openness, and having switches that work like servers.

He also advised SDN players to not get "too hung up" on the single perfect solution and the single perfect interface, and instead to embrace the different layers inherent in programming.

"The important thing is that the APIs are programmable and open," he said.

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