“My servers run on Linux. My team knows how to manage Linux servers and networks. It just makes sense for my switches to run on Linux too.” 

What most people don’t know is that many high-end network switches already run on Linux.

Switches from Cisco®, Extreme Networks® and Arista® use Linux to run their switch hardware (the operating system is hidden behind abstractions and APIs). As well, most of these share the same switching silicon products from Broadcom® and Intel®.

We are in the midst of a major transformation in networking. Innovation from companies like Cumulus Networks® and Edge-Core® are leading the way, disrupting the way new networks are deployed and old networks are upgraded.

In my role as head of product engineering at Tuangru, almost every small-to-mid size hosting service provider I talk to is considering open networking. Why? Because it just makes sense.

Open network hardware is more affordable and easy to acquire. The Linux software is familiar and, in most cases, admins prefer it over the next CLI and syntax versions available.

The rise of DevOps and cloud technologies like OpenStack are driving higher levels of automation and uniformity. Servers and switches have become less discernible–servers are hosting virtual network fabrics and switches are behaving like servers. As well, the reference designs are there, and are proven and hardened in the field.

Here are a few things to consider in deploying open networking technology:

Think big, start small. Open network hardware is powerful and cutting edge. Linux is familiar to most admins. However, you must plan your deployment in a measured and deliberate way. Train your staff and familiarize yourself with the capabilities of the hardware and software. I recommend to our clients to start with one to two racks, and grow from there.

Current network topology vs. open networking. There may be differences between your current network topology and what it may look like when you move to open networking.  Communicate and understand your desired outcomes from a technology, cost and business perspective. This will help drive the right conversation to determine the right solution for you.

32 Port 40GB switch is not a $250K router. Yes, it is capable of BGP, OSPF routing and firewall functions, but it is primarily a network switch. Appreciate the capabilities and limitations of the hardware and proceed wisely.

Invest in training. You may have a team of Linux rock stars, but don’t let that cloud your judgment. Your admins can benefit from network training, while your network staff can benefit from Linux training. Cumulus Networks offers valuable half-day training sessions that can help increase the domain knowledge in open networking amongst your staff.

Open networking has arrived. It is driving hardware innovation along with new applications and services that meet the needs of hosting service providers. Price, technology and performance–it’s all there.

Rami Jebara, SVP of Product Engineering, Tuangru

Rami oversees product engineering and software development at Tuangru, a technology company that offers a smarter, faster and cheaper way for service providers to procure data center hardware. Tuangru is an official partner of Cumulus Networks.