Not much was made about last week's unveiling of Backpack, Facebook, Inc.'s (FB) latest hardware invention for the datacenter. 

With almost 2 billion connected users worldwide, many of whom will be streaming live videos and playing with virtual reality, Facebook wants to make sure it has enough network capacity to keep up with bandwidth demand. For now, Backpack is seen more as a "what if" than a failsafe platform for Facebook, and few market watchers have cared to turn Backpack into a big deal. (See also: Facebook's WhatsApp Launches Video Calling.)

But there was also a time when Inc.'s (AMZN) cloud ambitions were also just a hobby for the company. Today, Amazon's hardware hobby, known as AWS, has become a tech juggernaut of its own and is now the standard cloud platform by which other cloud competitors are compared. Facebook's Backpack, while still a relatively new type of networking switch, could one day threaten the $41 billion network industry, currently led by the likes of Cisco Systems, Inc. (CSCO) and Juniper Networks (JNPR). (See also: Cisco's Upcoming Q1 Report: What to Expect.)

This version of Backpack is a second-generation computer switch and successor to Facebook's first iteration released last year called the 6-Pack, which boasted a 40G switch. Backpack, however, is a 100G optical switch. Not only does it have 150% more capacity, it's also 2.5 times faster than its predecessor and uses fiber optics (light) to transmit data instead of the traditional and more limited copper wires.

What's more, when Backpack is used in conjunction with Facebook’s recently announced Wedge 100 switch, this can greatly increase the speed at which Facebook data is funneled through its datacenters. Analysts believe Facebook's push into datacenter hardware should scare hardware incumbents like Cisco, Juniper and Hewlett-Packard Enterprise (HPE). (See also: Jefferies Raises HPE Price Target.)

All told, while it remains to be seen how Facebook will market and/or license its networking equipment, it seems as if the company is eager to disrupt how datacenter hardware is manufactured and sold. And many hardware vendors, which have been comfortable selling proprietary datacenter gear that is often expensive, should be nervous. (See also: Juniper Stock Downgraded by Morgan Stanley.)

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