I presented my first webinar on VMware vSphere with Cumulus® Linux® last week, which was really exciting for me. VMware has been around for 17 years and counting while Cumulus® Networks® came out of stealth mode only in June 2013. We all know that VMware vSphere works with a variety of network architectures, so I wanted to take a slightly different approach while presenting the webinar and writing this blog:

  •  What does Cumulus Networks bring to vSphere that others don’t?
  •  Does Cumulus Linux work well with vSphere?  How can we test it?

VMware vSphere and Cumulus Linux

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Cumulus Linux and VMware vSphere are both software solutions that run on a variety of hardware platforms. This allows customers to build and use platforms from a range of suppliers for compute, storage and networking. The software defines the performance and behavior of the environment, which allows the administrator to exercise version control and programmatic approaches that are already in use by DevOps teams. Today, switches with Cumulus Linux can be treated as servers.

Cumulus Linux with ONIE, ZTP and Automation

How does Cumulus Linux just work on top of bare metal switches? What is so different? Why can’t we do this with any switch out there in the market? And the answer is, ONIE!

ONIE stands for Open Network Install Environment. Previously, you couldn’t load any operating system onto a switch. Hardware that comes with ONIE allows you to do just that. It can be thought of as a pre-installed BIOS, PXE and kickstarter in one.

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*We are also proud to say that one of our engineers at Cumulus Networks was the lead and started the ONIE project, which eventually got pushed upstream to the community for other network operating systems to use as well. ONIE has been accepted as a contribution from Cumulus Networks to the Open Compute Project (OCP) and is now an official part of OCP.

Zero touch provisioning  (ZTP) picks up where ONIE leaves off. ZTP scripts check two sources for an OS image:

  1. First, USB.
  2. If there is no USB, then DHCP.

Centralized Management via Automation

Although going from switch to switch, digging deep into the CLI has been the traditional way to manage switches, today there are ways around that. But some people might ask, “why change?”

Before we answer that, consider the following:

  • If you’re configuring one or two switches, using the CLI might not be that big of deal, but what if you have to configure 3, 4 or 100 TORs? Isn’t there an easier way to do it other than to log into each switch and configure individually?
  • Can you back up the configuration on a daily basis?
  • What if the configuration being backed up is incorrect?
  • What if someone changes the configuration via direct SSH or console access?
  • What happens when there is a switch that needs to be replaced?
  • Wouldn’t it be better to have a centralized management tool where people can submit their changes, which can be tracked easily on an individual basis?

Automation is the answer to all these questions, including why you should change. Some of the automation tools used today with Cumulus Linux are Ansible, CFEngine, Chef, Puppet and Salt. The choice is all yours! But, how can I test some of this?

VMware vSphere Demo in Cumulus Workbench

If you want to personally experience and test some of these concepts and fully implement an automated Cumulus Linux and vSphere solution using our VMware vSphere demo with Cumulus Linux, reserve a Cumulus Workbench today.

In addition, please check out the validated design guide for an example of deploying vSphere in a traditional layer 2 environment, which discusses:

  • Network architecture and design considerations
    • Architecture
    • CLAG/MLAG
    • vSphere Distributed Switch (vDS)
    • VLANs
  • Management & OOB networking considerations
  • Storage considerations
    • NFS NAS configuration considerations
    • Hyper-converged storage
    • iSCSI SAN configuration considerations
  • Scaling
  • External connectivity (layer 2 and layer 3)
  • and more…

To Recap…

  • What does Cumulus Networks bring to vSphere that others don’t?

Cumulus Linux is a networking OS with hardware acceleration of switching and routing functions, and it runs on an extensive list of cost-effective 1, 10 and 40G platforms (see our HCL). Because it’s a true Linux distribution, it enables switches to be automated, monitored and managed using the same tools already employed on servers.

  • Does Cumulus Linux work well with vSphere?  How can we test it?

Yes, Cumulus Linux has been tested and validated with VMware vSphere. You can test it yourself following our validated design guide or through the VMware vSphere demo in the Cumulus Workbench. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to info@cumulusnetworks.com and we’d be happy to put you in contact with our technical resources.