March 5, 2021

Inside Magma: A look at the team behind the software

By: Meta Research

Facebook Connectivity’s mission is to bring more people online to a faster internet. Together with partners around the world, we’re developing programs and technologies that increase the availability, affordability, and awareness of high-quality internet access. In this blog, we take a closer look at Magma, an open source software platform that enables operators and internet service providers to deploy mobile networks in hard-to-reach areas.

To help tell the story of Magma, we reached out to two members of the Facebook Magma team, Brian Barritt (Software Engineering Manager) and Ulas Kozat (Software Engineer). As experts in this space, they provide more details about Magma, its use cases, as well as its growing community of academics, developers, and industry partners.

About Magma

Every mobile network needs a high-performance packet core at the center of its network. But the market has made it difficult for communications providers to buy, deploy, and maintain the latest technologies at a reasonable cost. According to Kozat, Magma is an open-source, enhanced packet core solution that delivers flexibility, openness, and lower costs to communications service providers. This ultimately means people can experience better connectivity, whether through 4G, 5G, Wi-Fi, or other wireless access technologies.

Kozat names the following potential use cases for Magma:

  • Providing connectivity solutions for smaller populations (such as remote locations, enterprises, and factories) that need more localized, self-managed networking
  • Providing regional or national operators with a solution to fill gaps in coverage or capacity in both rural and urban areas
  • Providing low-latency, high-bandwidth access to edge cloud (like AR/VR applications), to proliferate the next generation of applications and services

Facebook Connectivity’s work by nature is highly collaborative and spans several fields of expertise, and Magma is no exception. “Facebook Connectivity open-sourced Magma in 2019, and we continue to be major contributors to the code base,” says Kozat. “Our partner engineers, marketing team, and management team build partnerships with vendors, system integrators, academics, and service providers to accelerate market adoption and bring millions of real users online powered by Magma.”

Partnerships, collaborations, and community

The Magma team actively solicits researchers to join its advanced research arm through the Magma Academic Partnership Program, which was launched in 2020. “The program aims to foster strong participation from academic researchers to advance edge connectivity over open wireless research testbeds and platforms. The program also supports research projects that more directly explore advanced use cases using the Magma platform,” says Kozat.

In line with this vision, Magma and others within Facebook Connectivity have been part of the organization committee for the academic program, and have been speakers for the first OpenWireless Workshop, which was organized as part of ACM Mobisys in June 2020.

The Magma team further fosters collaboration and community among industry and academic partners through events like the Magma Developers Conference, which took place this year on February 3, 2021. The annual event brings together developers, communications service providers, field experts, academia, and technology leaders to discuss opportunities, challenges, and new ways to improve and expand global connectivity. “The major theme of the event this year echoes Facebook Connectivity’s mission and underscores Magma’s role in connecting people to a faster internet,” says Barritt.

This year’s conference featured three talks led by academic collaborators: Sylvia Ratnasamy (University of California, Berkeley), Kurtis Heimerl (University of Washington), and Rahman Doost-Mohammady (Rice University). For those interested in learning more about the event, all the sessions are on the Open Infra Foundation’s YouTube channel.

Magma is expanding its community of developers through an open-source industry collaboration with the Linux Foundation. The Linux Foundation will provide a neutral governance framework for Magma, and is joined by other open-source communities including the Open Infrastructure Foundation and the OpenAirInterface Software Alliance. Many other partner companies of varying sizes have also joined the project.

“The sustainability of open-source projects depends on a healthy ecosystem. For Magma, there are many partners actively contributing to the codebase and are actively deploying Magma. Their business success is intertwined with the success of Magma,” Kozat says. More information about the collaboration is available on the Linux Foundation blog.

Next steps

For 2021, the Magma team will continue to emphasize the importance of collaboration. “Our efforts to include the research community in the Magma ecosystem will continue in 2021 with full thrust,” says Kozat. “New funding opportunities and support mechanisms for universities will be offered to push the envelope further than the near-term industry needs.”

To get involved with the Magma developer community, check out Magma’s GitHub page. Here you will find information about Slack channels and mailing lists. For marketing and industry-related news and announcements, visit the Magma website and subscribe to receive updates. For general updates from the Facebook research community, follow our Facebook page.