New Routing Network Platform: Facebook’s Urban Wireless Project Gets a Flexible Toolkit

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By: James O'Brien|

Facebook recently announced Open/R, a platform that will manage and improve its wireless routing network. With it, the social network should be able to more easily test and deploy software solutions within Terragraph, one of its primary Wi-Fi connectivity projects.

According to Network Computing, the Open/R routing network platform differs from existing open source solutions in that Facebook will be able to create new features and problem-resolution installs at a faster pace than out-of-box third-party projects could provide. Open/R encodes messages with the Thrift language and then turns to ZeroMQ, an open-source library, for message exchange functions.

Open/R Supports Terragraph Network

Facebook’s Terragraph network, which was announced in April 2016, is built to deliver Wi-Fi to urban areas via antennae attached to light poles and other city fixtures. According to TechCrunch, the 60-GHz frequency band Terragraph uses can flexibly navigate from one cluster to another, working around high-rise structures and other urban obstacles. However, the frequency is not very effective at penetrating walls, so separate hardware nodes receive the Wi-Fi signal and pipe it into buildings Terragraph serves.

The Verge reports that because of the number of antennae and Terragraph’s sensitivity to other environmental factors, Facebook will likely want a quickly scalable software solution on hand to address routing problems and alter the way the system works if a problem were to arise. Enter Open/R.

“Weather or other obstructions can change the amount of bandwidth you have very quickly,” Omar Maldonado, a software engineer on Facebook’s networking team, told the publication. “That’s not something routing protocols in the past have been built to handle.”

Additional Benefits of the New Routing Network

Facebook points out that Open/R is not only scalable, but it is also decentralized. This hybrid arrangement — setting network controls in numerous hubs rather than one home base — should create a factor of reliability that keeps Terragraph up and running more of the time.

Additionally, Network Computing reported that the solutions Open/R institutes should extend beyond routing to offer layers of link-utilization measurement and segment-routing control to the system.

Terragraph is currently in testing phases, with a next-step public trial deployment expected to appear in San Jose, California, in late 2016.

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About The Author

James O'Brien

Freelance Writer

As a journalist and writer in the branded content space, James O'Brien covers business, technology, social media, marketing, film, food, wine, writing and news. The Nieman Journalism Lab has called his work in the custom content space "sponsored content done right." He has written for major regional newspapers, and he has managed and edited established, startup and turnaround newsrooms in varied markets, from community papers to major-city dailies. He consults for firms and businesses — startups to seasoned — on the creation of effective content strategies and the establishment of practical editorial calendars for enacting them. O'Brien holds a Ph.D. in Editorial Studies from the Editorial Institute at Boston University, where he researched and edited Bob Dylan's other-than-song writings. He is engaged in a bibliography for Oxford University Press, covering writings about filmmaker John Cassavetes. He is the author of "The Indie Writer's Survival Guide." His short stories and poetry are published in numerous journals and magazines.

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