What a difference a couple of years can make. Two years ago, Cumulus Networks was a startup just coming out of stealth mode, and the open networking movement was a mere twinkle in our eyes. Since then, an ecosystem has arisen around open networking that offers customers choice not only in the networking hardware and software they run, but also in how they procure it. Now, companies of all sizes — from small shops with an IT team to the world’s largest cloud providers — are able to reap the benefits of open networking in the way that works best for them.

The expanding open networking ecosystem

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While some customers choose Cumulus Linux when shopping for a network solution, many of our customers first experience open networking as part of a broader procurement strategy. Increasingly, open networking is part of next-generation architectures designed to deliver IT as a pool of unified resources that can be managed holistically — what some people call the software-defined data center. With a growing network of partners — ranging from resellers to integrators to OEMs — customers can buy open networking from an IT provider that they know and trust.

Here are a few common scenarios.

Hyper-converged Infrastructure

We’re seeing a lot of interest from companies in running Cumulus Linux with hyper-converged platforms for two main reasons:

  1. Cumulus Linux brings down networking costs, freeing funds for future scale out of storage capacity.
  2. Running Linux on the network means that teams can use Linux tools to manage and automate the network in the same way they manage servers.

If you attended Nutanix’s .NEXT conference last month, you may have heard firsthand from George Hewitt, infrastructure and development manager at Perth Radiological Clinic, about the value of running an open network with Nutanix infrastructure. After consulting with partner BEarena, George chose Cumulus Linux and Nutanix appliances to allow his infrastructure team of two to improve application performance dramatically while ramping up capacity for storing medical images as the clinic grows. If you missed it, check out a recording of our webinar with George here.

Cloud Orchestration with OpenStack

An OpenStack metagoal is to architect a cloud with standard compute, storage and networking procurable from your favorite IT provider such as Dell, HP, Quanta or Supermicro. Cumulus Linux is quickly becoming a universal underlay for OpenStack, providing great networking for Layer 2, Layer 3 and overlay architectures. For those looking for an open approach, it’s a natural fit.

Cumulus Linux and OpenStack work great together in part because of some technical work we and others in the community have done.  You can hear about Hierarchical Port Binding from Nolan Leake and Mark McClain of Akanda here, but in short, this is built into the Cumulus Linux Neutron plugin and allows users to map host VLANs to VXLANs. And with the Puppet installer automation module we’ve developed, you can stand up an OpenStack implementation in about 20 minutes by simply plugging in a USB stick into your top of rack switch.

Jonathan LaCour of DreamHost spoke at the OpenStack Summit about why he built the DreamCompute OpenStack public cloud on what he calls the COCO stack: Cumulus Linux, OpenStack, Ceph, Overlay. He sees COCO as “the LAMP stack of the next generation” because it’s suited for the scale modern applications demand. We’re collaborating with the others in the COCO stack — whether it’s Red Hat for Ceph or our many partners in the network overlay community — to make deploying and running OpenStack fast, smooth and economical.

Also at the OpenStack Summit, Timothy Gelter and Frans Van Rooyen from Adobe talked about why they built their private cloud using Cumulus Linux as part of a VMware Integrated OpenStack (VIO) environment, using VMware NSX and Cumulus Linux on Dell open networking switches, vSphere for compute and vSAN for storage. OpenStack provides a unified way of consuming these resources in a programmatic manner.

Network Build-outs

Open networking isn’t always procured as part of a larger, more complex infrastructure solution. Many companies buy switches running Cumulus Linux when they are simply building out networks, and there’s a growing list of providers serving them. We now have seven open hardware partners that provide Cumulus Linux. They offer more than 25 configurations — a wide variety of form factors covering the needs of simple to the most complex networks.

The consumption model depends on each company’s needs and,  perhaps surprisingly, isn’t a function of size. Smaller companies sometimes need just the network gear, and we’re seeing hyperscale customers go the converged, integrated route.

The common thread is that all customers are looking for a fast, affordable network, and whether or not they use the term “software-defined data center,” they’re looking for a flexible infrastructure that works as one pool to deliver IT services.

Dell was the first major OEM to embrace open networking. Their efforts to educate IT about its benefits, including a roadshow that has taken the open networking message to major cities across the globe, are paying off with a growing customer list. Dell customers love having the option to move to a modern model while working with a partner they trust.

Customers Win

The wide range of deployment options available to customers today is evidence that open networking is accelerating.

Network disaggregation is inevitable; even Cisco and Juniper are starting to dip their toes in the pool because they know this is where things are headed. By blowing up the black box model of networking, the ecosystem is letting market forces prevail.