April 4, 2014

“Open Network Linux” Could Boost Viability of Bare Metal Switches

LAS VEGASâThe Facebook-led Open Compute Project has spent the past year building an âopenâ switch that can boot nearly any type of networking software, giving customers more alternatives to proprietary switch vendors like Cisco.

Intel, Broadcom, Mellanox, and Cumulus Networks jumped on board last November, contributing specifications and software that will bring the project closer to a finished design. They werenât alone, though: Software-defined networking vendor Big Switch Networks in January donated what it calls Open Network Linux (ONL) to the project.

In an interview with Ars at this weekâs Interop conference in Las Vegas, newly appointed Big Switch CEO Douglas Murray explained the companyâs reasons for getting involved. As Big Switch noted in its announcement, ONL is âthe Linux distribution for bare metal switches that runs underneath our commercial Switch Light OS. ONLâs goal is to give people deploying OCP [Open Compute Project] switches a simplified experience with a standard Linux distribution that comes prepackaged with all of the relevant drivers, loaders, and platform-independent goodness. If ONL is successful and becomes a popular distribution for open network hardware, it will also mean less integration work for hardware and software vendors and thus fewer bugs and other surprises once ONL-based products get to end customers.â

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