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Open Compute Project nears approval of network switch specifications

OCP may on the verge of approving open standards for network switches.

The Open Compute Project continues to make progress, with a growing number of contributors facilitating development of open standards cloud hardware. The next frontier in OCP's efforts may be network switches, which Facebook's Frank Frankovsky believes could be just around the corner.

In May 2013, Facebook announced that it was working with vendors to create top-of-rack switches that would meet OCP standards. Despite the rise of open source management tools and software-defined technologies for networking, computing and storage, switches have not changed much. Many current models do not scale well, being prone to overheating that makes it impossible for data center architects to place them closely together.

"We have built these islands of openness in the data center but the last element, and the one that was connecting the compute and storage, was the network," stated Frankovsky, according to GigaOM's Stacey Higginbotham. "And there is a lot of pent-up passion out there for breaking open this appliance model."

The OCP's efforts may be coming to fruition. In a separate GigaOM piece, Derrick Harris reported that the organization may soon vote to approve four specifications. OCP hopes to create switches that will be suitable for dense web​-scale data centers.

At the same time, the open designs may give vendors and enterprises more options as they build cloud infrastructure. In May, Frankovsky mentioned that he wanted the new appliances to be agnostic of the operating system. That way, the hardware would not be tied to proprietary code and administrators could more easily make changes as operations scale.

Broadcom was the first vendor to submit a full design for an OCP switch. If approved, it and the other three designs could begin disrupting the networking market in the same way that OCP's original initiatives changed the server hardware space.