Two moves taken by open networking vendors this week will possibly chip a little bit more off the monolith of proprietary, appliance-like equipment that still moves most packets around enterprise data centers.
On Thursday, network OS supplier Cumulus Networks described turnkey switches based on standard hardware from Edgecore Networks running Cumulus software. They’re designed to enable customers who don’t have much knowledge about open networking to get started quickly and easily.
Earlier in the week, Barefoot Networks released that Edgecore and another Taiwan-based manufacturer called WNC that would start shipping switches that use the company’s fully programmable chips.
Open networking isolates software from hardware, just like open computing that excludes hardware from a specific OS, so engineers can have more flexibility to build different networks. It started in the webscale data centers of companies like Facebook and Google, where technology teams distribute custom-built switches and often update them to meet changing needs using a DevOps model.
The concept hasn’t made that many routes into average enterprises, which tend to have fewer DevOps expertise and depend on traditional all-in-one routers and switches from vendors like Cisco Systems. Cumulus’s release ofCumulus Express, the company’s first hardware products, will assist those enterprises to get involved in open networking, Cumulus CEO Josh Leslie said in an interview.
A key feature of open networking is the ability to choose software from one source and hardware from another, but many companies aren’t ready to deploy this kind technology.
Cumulus’s move is helpful for the market, where open networking hasn’t really reached average companies, according to IDC analyst Brad Casemore.
Some Cumulus partners, like Dell and Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, already sell hardware that runs the company’s software. Cumulus Express does not aim to replace those products, Leslie said.
The Cumulus Express design includes switches with 1Gbps (bit-per-second) to 100Gbps interfaces. They include pre-activated license keys, a list of certified cables and optics for those ports, and 24×7 global support. You can buy all this in a single purchase order.
Programmable switching chips, designed by Barefoot and other vendors like Cavium and Innovium, are taking the advantage of flexibility of open networking all the way down to the silicon.