LinkedIn will use open source Software for Open Networking in the Cloud (SONiC) as the switching platform for its Project Falco. The project focuses on decoupling network hardware and software, and it developed a homegrown switch called Pigeon.
Microsoft built SONiC, an open source software to run cloud switches, and turned the code over to the Open Compute Project (OCP) in 2016. SONiC allows cloud operators to share the same software stack across multiple switch vendors’ hardware.
LinkedIn launched Falco — one of its next-generation data center networking projects — in late 2015. About a year and a half later, the project’s working group announced its own switch to fix a network latency problem. Pigeon, a 3.2 Tb/s switch, can be used as a leaf or a spine switch. LinkedIn last year deployed Pigeon in its Portland, Oregon data center.
“Pigeon is a top-of-rack switch that we currently use in production. We’re looking to include SONiC in our switches as we move forward, and that’s something we can run on Pigeon,” said LinkedIn spokesperson Stephen Lynch in an email. “In fact, when we first announced Pigeon back in 2016 we mentioned wanting to look at SAI.”
SONiC is built on Microsoft’s Switch Abstraction Interface (SAI), which was accepted by OCP in July 2015. SAI will allow LinkedIn to support different merchant silicon in its data centers, wrote Zaid Ali Kahn, senior director of infrastructure engineering at LinkedIn, in a blog post about choosing SONiC.
LinkedIn wanted a switching platform that gave it the flexibility to run its silicon of choice on any hardware platform. It also wanted to “run some of the same infrastructure software and tools we use on our application servers on the switching platform; for example, telemetry, alerting, Kafka, logging, security, and software development toolkits,” Kahn wrote.
LinkedIn will also use SONiC as the base platform for its OpenFabric initiative, which is a web-scale protocol for data center fabric. And it plans to contribute several things back to the SONiC open source community. This includes a free range routing stack, an OpenFabric web-scale protocol, white box solutions, and Open19 hardware platforms. Open19 is LinkedIn’s open source data center hardware project.
Collaborating with the SONiC community will improve the project’s convergence, according to Kahn. “For example, we have worked on several improvements to the routing stack, writing our own OpenFabric control plane on top of SONiC and integrating these projects with Open19 hardware. We are very excited for the increasingly strong momentum behind the platform to build programmable networks that can connect and deliver the best experience to our members.”