When it comes to the networking industry and purchasing a network device, a user typically has two choices: Party D and Party R.

Sure, there are other parties out there, but they usually don’t make the ballot for one reason or another. Even when you are not a “hardcore” supporter of either party, you feel stuck in one of those camps since you cannot partially “vote,” much less mix-and-match, as both parties are incompatible with each other.

What if this doesn’t have to be the case?

In this new world democracy, what if you could apportion your vote in a piecemeal fashion? In essence, taking the bits from one party combined with those of another party to create a new candidate tailored for your needs.

For the last 18 months or so, the Open Compute Project (OCP) Networking Group has been further validating and accelerating the adoption of this new reality of a disaggregated network design where the network device is separated from the network operating system (NOS) that powers the device. At the heart of this is a little piece of OCP software called ONIE (Open Network Install Environment), a key innovation by Cumulus Networks and released to the open source community. ONIE is an enhanced boot loader. It is Linux in its truest form, and allows industry-standard network devices to be provisioned similar to how PXE is used to provision servers. As a result, ONIE enables network devices to load any NOS they choose at a scale that has been unseen in the networking space until now.

Cumulus Networks is unique in its philosophy as a networking vendor — to make it faster, easier, and less expensive for customers to deploy networking hardware and give them the power of choice like never before. ONIE can serve as the underpinning for zero touch provisioning irrespective of the hardware and operating system customers wish to deploy.

Let’s recap for all you voters out there:

  • Choose any open networking hardware that ships with ONIE based on your needs (line speeds, port density, form factor, ASICs, whatever criteria you need to solve your problem) with reassurance of a stamp of approval from the OCP
  • Choose a NOS that fits your needs and comfort level and is consumable by your constituents
  • Choose a configuration management solution that bests suits your needs (Chef, Puppet, Ansible, or a proprietary solution)
  • Choose the best solution for your budget

We might be in the early days of this “new democracy,” but that has not stopped early voting by those with a vision for a better tomorrow.

Guest blogger for Cumulus Networks, Carlos Cardenas of University of Texas at San Antonio

Carlos Cardenas is the current Associate Director at the UTSA Cloud and Big Data Laboratory. His lab is responsible for providing Certification and Interoperability for the Open Compute Project (first in North America), Solutions for Advanced Computing (Cloud, Big Data, and HPC), and Sponsored Research within Industry and Academia. Follow Carlos on twitter @cobracmder