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Why Google secretly switched to an open-source networking technology in 2010

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In 2010 Google secretly began adopting an open-source networking technology called OpenFLow, which it claims has made its internal network more efficient and easier to manage.

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At a talk in Santa Clara, California, Google's senior VP of operations Urs Hölzle revealed that two years ago the internet giant secretly restructured its internal network using open-source technology called OpenFlow. The switch began in 2010, and as of early this year Google says that its entire internal network — which it calls the G-Scale Network — is running the new technology. OpenFlow makes it possible to control a network via a process called software defined networking (SDN), which makes complex networks like Google's both more efficient and easier to manage.

In order to adopt the new software, though, Google also needed new hardware — so it built its own. While the company already had experience creating its own servers, the switch to OpenFlow meant that it also had to start designing and building some of its own networking equipment as well. It was a decision made of necessity. "In 2010, when we were seriously starting the project, you could not buy any piece of equipment that was even remotely suitable for this task," Hölzle told Wired. However, his hope is that the likes of Cisco and Juniper will eventually adopt OpenFlow as well and start building their own equipment, which Google would be happy to buy.