SURFsara is a cooperative association of Dutch education and research institutions in the field of information and communication technology. The organisation can trace its history back to 1971 as founded under the name Stichting Academisch Rekencentrum Amsterdam (SARA) providing VU University Amsterdam, the University of Amsterdam and the Mathematical Center at the time with computer facilities.
Nowadays SURFsara provides services in the field of super computers, networks, data storage and high-quality visualization to almost all Dutch universities, research institutes and educational institutions.
In order to simplify the work, save costs and have freedom of choice, SURFsara decided to let go of the traditional network and embrace open networking.
For the implementation of Cumulus Linux SURFsara had to contend with sharply rising maintenance contracts. The institution spent hundreds of thousands of euros annually on the maintenance of Juniper switches.
Although Cumulus is experienced as a super innovative partner, it also creates the necessary pressure within SURFsara at certain times.
“Innovation within networking is still a problem. A network must above all be stable. I often hear "take it easy with that innovation!". People prefer to go back to traditional solutions that they know work and know no risk”, says Sander Boele, network expert at SURFsara.
“I believe in open source, the whole philosophy of making source code public and verifiable appeals to me. There is a shift going from management to development, so that you start looking at infrastructure in a completely different way. You now view it more comprehensive instead of seeing it as a one-sided thing to which you add pieces through design and implementation.”
Since the transformation of a vendor-based, vertically integrated solution into an open and disaggregated network, SURFsara experiences more freedom, synergy with servers and the infrastructure is deployed more widely. Moreover, there is disaggregation between hardware and software and, thanks to Cumulus Linux, automation is now possible on a large scale.
The implementation of Cumulus Linux also brought freedom of choice in the use of hardware, software and architecture. SURFsara has now equipped 50 switches from NVIDIA Networking - Mellanox and 120 switches from Dell with a fully automated Cumulus Linux operating system. Existing tools can easily communicate with those switches and the Linux interface also provides a set of tools aimed at management, automation and monitoring.
Implementing Cumulus Linux has simplified work for SURFsara in many areas. There is more freedom of movement and the organisation can distribute bare-metal systems through the data center more easily through an EVPN implementation.
SURFsara will always continue to focus on a better, faster and more efficient network in their pursuit of the ultimate open network. Boele: “The complete automation of our complete infrastructure is the ultimate goal, to become a kind of mini-Amazon within SURFsara. An utopia where everything is automated, there is no human interaction anymore so the only thing we have to do is sit back and relax.”