Since our inception, Cumulus Networks has strived to propel the industry forward with innovative products, unmatched service and a transformative worldview. As the company has grown and as our products have been optimized, we feel we’re at a place that is truly exciting, both for us and for our customers. So today, you may ask, how does Cumulus Networks now fit in to the industry environment, needs and zeitgeist as the innovators of open networking? I’m happy you asked. Let’s start from the beginning.

Restrictive networking is holding back digital transformation

CIO Magazine recently predicted that by 2020 there will be 4.1 billion internet users with 26.3 billion networked devices. This will cause data center traffic to jump 330%! Every industry is feeling the pressure to deliver innovative digital experiences to these network hungry consumers. This digital disruption is real — where speed, quality and agility mean everything to businesses. In fact, 40% of CEOs rank digital transformation as their top imperative, according to a recent Economist Intelligence Unit survey.

This means the vitality of the network is of the utmost importance to support the applications that we haven’t even dreamed of yet. Without a fast, agile network, there is no way organizations can deliver richer application experiences to customers and rapidly connect an ever-increasing number of diverse devices, systems and sensors.

Yet today’s networking often still resembles old-school networking from 20 years ago. These legacy networking solutions, that were designed to solve the challenges of the 90’s, are proprietary, archaic, inflexible and expensive. They are fundamentally unable to keep up with the new technologies and applications needed to deliver innovative services.

A 2017 global survey of over 1,000 IT decision makers found that 98% felt that a next-gen network was critical to keep up with the needs of their business and end users. Yet, 85% of these same decision makers said they were still several years away from reaching the full potential of digital transformation, mainly due to their legacy infrastructure. Proprietary systems that lock you in do not offer the flexibility, agility and robustness to support the modern needs of a data center.

A modern network needs S.O.U.L.

Cumulus Networks offers a new paradigm for those who seek to drive change and automation — a way to obtain the benefits of web-scale principles by unlocking the vertical network stack to a world of scalability, redundancy, automation and predictability never known before.

We do this with our focus around “Networking with S.O.U.L.S.O.U.L = Simple, Open, Untethered, Linux. It is this driving principle that breaks the shackles of the old way. It is the unique capability that we offer. These four tenants are our goal, our passion and our differentiation. Only through these foundational principles can a modern, agile network be built to support the new demands of the business.

Simple = Web-scale networks must be easy to try, provision, operate and scale.
Open = Openness means freedom, which means unleashing innovation.
Untethered = Disaggregation unlocks choice, plus the full use of automation tools and the ability to scale affordably.
Linux = Using Linux in networking unifies the data center, giving unprecedented visibility and coding power.



In the remaining paragraphs, we will discuss each specific tenant of S.O.U.L and how our technology and features specifically align to that tenant.


There are a number of ways that Cumulus makes managing the network simple. In fact, it really is our sweet spot. We call it the 4 E’s of Simplicity — Easy to Start, Easy to Use, Easy to Scale, Easy to Try.

  • Easy to Start: Here are just two examples of how we help you get started with Cumulus right from the very beginning.
    • Simple to get up and running with Zero Touch Provisioning (ZTP) – ZTP enables network devices to be quickly deployed in large-scale environments. On first boot, Cumulus invokes ZTP, which executes the provisioning automation used to deploy the device for its intended role in the network.
    • Simple cable validation with Prescriptive Topology Manager (PTM) – PTM is a unique cabling validation tool that also comes as part of Cumulus Linux. Data center cabling is a huge pain and time-consuming effort. PTM simplifies this process by validating that all the cables are in the right places.
  • Easy to Use: The ease of managing Cumulus solutions makes it a cinch to adopt. Below are some key examples of what we mean.
    • A CLI that makes operating easy with our Network Command Line Utility (NCLU) — NCLU provides consistent access to networking commands directly via bash, thereby making configuration and troubleshooting simple and easy.
    • Simplified IP address management with eBGP Unnumbered — eBGP unnumbered provides organizations a routed fabric through a leaf and spine network by running eBGP through the leaf and spine.
    • Free Range Routing (FRR) – FRR is Cumulus’ solution to do Routing on the Host.
    • Host-to-Switch Insight – This visibility is achieved through Cumulus NetQ. NetQ gives you a very quick way to 1) find out what the problem is, 2) help pinpoint the actual problem, and 3) find the last good network state. NetQ gives all this insight right from your laptop.
    • Controller-less SDN – Cumulus Networks positions EVPN as a high scale, redundancy, traffic engineering, multi-tenant separation, and fast convergence for host and VM mobility — all while interoperating between vendors by featuring both asymmetric and symmetric routing methods.
    • Multi-tenancy & security – VRFs isolate routing tables between tenants, allowing for multi-tenancy within the environment.
  • Easy to Scale: Both architecturally & operationally
    • Clos or Leaf-Spine Topology enables predictable and reliable scale-out bandwidth. If more bandwidth is required, simply add more spines. If more servers are required, add more leaf switches.
    • Cumulus allows an organization to scale out not only the network, but also the operations team. With Cumulus, the ops team doesn’t need to grow as the network grows. You can manage switches at the same ratio server admins do — one admin to 500 switches. This can happen when network complexities are reduced, standardized tools and programs are implemented, and automation methods are created to detect issues and improve time to market.
  • Easy to try
    • We’ve even made Cumulus easy to try. These features can be tested for free in a virtual private data center environment accessed from your web browser with Cumulus in the Cloud. Or, use Cumulus VX, a free virtual appliance used to explore Cumulus in more detail.


From the beginning, Cumulus has been the pioneer of open networking. We believe openness and standardization are the keys to unleash innovation in networking during this age of digital disruption. Open networking based on an open operating system leverages the rapid technology improvement cycles of merchant silicon, an expanding set of bare metal switching hardware providers, the growing ecosystem of commercial and open source Linux tools and applications, and diverse routes to globally market to fit customers’ purchasing behaviors. Examples include the following.

  • Open Network Install Environment (ONIE): We created ONIE, the defacto standard for installing software on whitebox switches, and contributed it to the Open Compute Project. ONIE is an open source initiative led by Cumulus and driven by a community of new generation networking leaders with the common goal of defining an open “install environment” for bare metal network switches.
  • VRF to Linux: Again, something we created here at Cumulus. We contributed VRF to the Linux kernel and it is now part of the Linux ecosystem. You can install VRFs on Linux onto your servers just as you would your switches.
  • FRR: As mentioned earlier, we created and contributed FRR (Free Range Routing) to the open source Linux community. FRR has the ability to streamline the routing protocol stack and to make engineers’ lives that much easier.


This really is all about unlocking choice. Vertically stacked networking has thwarted innovation for too long. By decoupling hardware from software, organizations will reap the benefits of disaggregation. This includes freedom of choice. Historically, network devices have been fully tethered, turnkey appliances that have included a combination of hardware, software and an operating system from a single vendor. By separating hardware and software, you get to choose how to run your business.

At Cumulus, our focus is to provide you with choices for hardware, silicon, cabling, architecture, optics, protocols and so on. The focus on separating hardware from the software means you get to choose how to run your business.

As proof of this focus of giving our customers choice, our open operating system, Cumulus Linux, is supported on over 70 hardware platforms, including Dell, HP, Edgecore, Mellanox, Delta, Facebook, QCT, Supermicro and Penguin. That’s nearly 40 more than our nearest competitor, and that number will continue to grow.

With disaggregation, you have the ability to find a lower total price point for your data center. Cumulus running on bare metal switches can reduce networking CapEx costs by 45% and OpEx costs by up to 75%!


We are all about unifying the data center, and Linux correlates with equality and unification. Gartner has stated, “There’s a template out there, and the template is the way the big web properties operate. They’re using Linux-based automation tools — many of them open source. They’re building workflows; it’s automation by default.”

At Cumulus, we remove the bottleneck traditional networks have caused, freeing up the ability to develop future applications that have yet to be invented. The network will no longer be the bottleneck to technological advancement. Linux levels the playing field by providing a standard infrastructure for all. By utilizing the dominant language in the data center, you can affordably build and efficiently operate your network like the world’s largest data center operators and unlock vertical network stacks.

Join the S.O.U.L movement

I hope you enjoyed my account of how Cumulus networking with S.O.U.L can transform your data center. Over the next several weeks, we’ll be launching several resources and assets to help you get to know the movement. If you’d like to take a deeper dive, check out the S.O.U.L page where you’ll find an ebook, infographic and more.