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To 800G and Beyond! Part II - Software

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Written by: Barry McGinley 7/2/2024

800G and Beyond - Part 2

The open networking datacenter NOS (network operating system) environment has seen a huge amount of consolidation over the last 5 years. This is down to the emergence of an open-source NOS, graciously gifted to the world by non-other than Microsoft. Linus Torvalds, the creator, and lead developer of the Linux kernel, famously said, “Microsoft isn’t evil, they just make really crappy operating systems.” Thankfully, in this case, he was referring to Windows and not the white box operating system that is taking over the data center ecosystem. Torvalds’s own Linux Foundation are now the gatekeepers of community SONiC so it's safe to say he approves this time!

SONiC is not the only show in town when it comes to available operating systems, but it would be fair to say that the NOS herd has thinned. OcNOS from IP Infusion is still big player in the datacenter market and will be adding 800G to their portfolio in the coming months. The same applies to Arrcus and their ArcOS. This blog will examine each of this ensemble in more detail and take a broader view of the SONiC ecosystem that has opensource and commercial options, with additional orchestration platforms to support.

SONiC – Software for Open Networking In the Cloud

SONiC

SONiC has been in the production network of Microsoft Azure for more than a decade now. In 2017 they gifted it to the Open Compute Project, who maintained it for several years. It has since moved on to the Linux Foundation where it has found a home alongside some of the world's most successful open-source projects like Kubernetes, Linux, Jenkins, Prometheus, and so on. (Add in link to my previous blog on SONiC for more info on the nuts and bolts as not covering it in this) This version of SONiC is what we affectionately call the GitHub version. This is the open-source, completely free version with no support or help if you come unstuck. This version of SONiC is NOT production ready. It does not mean it cannot be used but it will break your heart trying. Alibaba, Tencent, LinkedIn, eBay, have all used this version but as you can imagine they have the engineering resources to tailor it to their specific needs. Most do not have this luxury.

There is another way to use the open source that is starting to gain traction which I will expand upon now.

Orchestration/Management

One of the first questions I ask for a new deployment request is, how are you going to manage the devices? If it is between 2 or 10 devices, the chances are you will manage them yourself but as the scale increases so does the complexity involved on the management side. A few companies who specialize in orchestration, management, and telemetry are now offering solutions using open-source SONiC.

They will take community SONiC, harden it, provide a management suite to control and provide telemetry, and finally provide 24/7 support. This has countless benefits to it but some of the high-level ones are:

  1. Free to choose from SONiCs extensive hardware compatibility list.

  2. Free tailored opensource SONiC.

  3. Standardized GUI.

  4. Pre-deployment zero touch testing.

  5. Removes the need to learn new NOS.

  6. Eliminates config errors.

  7. The management suite has greater insight into the network giving fine grained network analytics.

There are two companies in particular that are stand out in this area and they are BE Networks (formerly BeyondEdge) and Aviz Networks.

BeyondEdge Networks & AVIZ

I could write a blog on this topic alone, but I urge you to have a look at both company’s products. Verity for BE and ONES for Aviz. Their management platforms allow for a seamless move to SONiC and bare metal switches without the hardships that would usually be associated with open-source software. Verity was the software of choice in our zero-touch network deployment with Thyssenkrupp Material Services – you can watch a case study on this deployment here.

Commercial

The commercial offering side of SONiC has finally started to settle down over the last 12 months. There was a stampede to release hardened versions from the GitHub source code from every big name in the networking business. Personally, I thought this was a terrible thing for SONiC. The chances of it being a success would be limited with so many versions. We are supposed to be looking for standardization are we not? This has thankfully settled down and we have leaders emerging with Broadcom as the pacesetter.
 

Broadcom

BroadcomBroadcom have been a big supporter of SONiC since the beginning. This makes complete business sense as Broadcom make the silicon for the bare metal boxes, and using SONiC usually means using a Broadcom chip-based box. The image below is old but shows the SONiC commits on GitHub. Broadcom are second only to Microsoft, but since the DELL commits are actually Broadcom, they are the largest contributor by some distance.

Broadcom released their own commercial version of Enterprise SONiC a couple of years ago which has gone from strength to strength. I will not go into the nuts and bolts feature wise, but they have the resources to make this a success. They are also able to pull functionality out of the ASIC that others cannot, giving them an immediate advantage on their competitors. ASICs like the Tomahawk and Trident 5s for 800G have been designed with this NOS and AI (Artificial Intelligence) in mind, add in the acquisition of VMware and it almost looks like they have a cohesive plan to dominate the datacenter market. Or at least challenge Nvidia!

GitHub Commits to SONiC
 

Edgecore

EdgecoreAnother commercial version that has gotten market traction is Edgecore Networks Enterprise SONiC. Edgecore are the most well-known hardware vendor in the open networking world, and it was a logical step for them to try and bundle the software with the hardware to create a fully supported product. They have good engineering capabilities along with very impressive support which they have mastered after years in the hardware business. The have also added a range of AI servers using Intels Gaudi 2 to bolster their offering for AI using SONiC on 800G Broadcom based switches (as seen in previous 800G blog) as the network portion.

Get in touch today to trial Enterprise SONiC from Broadcom or Edgecore on bare metal from Edgecore, Ufispace, or Celestica. Or SONiC express maybe?
 

OcNOS from IP Infusion

IP Infusion is the elder statesman of the Open Networking world. Founded in 1999 with the release of ZebOS which was a commercialised version of the open-source routing package Zebra OS. Similar beginnings to the commercial versions of SONiC you might notice!! OcNOS has been a commercially successful OS in both the datacenter and the telecoms world for more than a decade with large deployments globally. As you can see from the use cases below, OcNOS not only allows you to manage your datacenter network, but also your data center interconnect, or any optical transport you have associated with it. One NOS to rule them all, and in the darkness bind them. My precious……

IP Infusion's OcNOS Use Cases

 
 Get in touch for more information on features and use cases from IP Infusions OcNOS.

ArcOS from Arrcus

ArrcusThe final NOS I want to mention briefly is ArcOS from Arrcus. Founded in 2016, Arrcus has been working in the shadows with some big customers which has kept them busy but has emerged in the last year with a fully functional NOS that has been tested at scale. Like IP Infusion they have a fully featured NOS for the data center, and additionally, some use cases more suited to the telecoms industry with 5G transport networks, edge, and cell site routing, and more.  They will soon have a range of 800G switches available for data center deployments using the Tomahawk 5 ASIC on Ufisapce and Edgecore boxes. Additionally, they are working on the Jericho and Ramon 3 ASICs from Broadcoms DNX family which should have some interesting use cases, so watch this space. For more information or a trial of ArcOS please contact EPSGlobal.

Conclusion

I used to write a yearly blog called the Tyranny of Choice explaining each of the NOS vendors in Open Networking. There was so many to choose from, too many, which made it was hard for us at EPS Global to keep up with the ever-changing landscape. We are master distributors on the hardware side so in one way it was nice to see companies coming to us looking to partner but also difficult to allocate the proper resources to yet another software vendor who may or may not have large scale deployments, or a decent support structure in place. This has changed due the consolidation in the market. Standardization is the goal of Open Networking on both the hardware and software. The hardware part is in essence complete, and the software is following suit.

Slán go fóill,
Barry
 

To 800G and Beyond! Part II - Software

The open networking datacenter NOS (network operating system) environment has seen a huge amount of consolidation over the last 5 years. This is down to the emergence of an open-source NOS, graciously gifted to the world by non-other than Microsoft. Linus Torvalds, the creator, and lead developer of the Linux kernel, famously said, “Microsoft isn’t evil, they just make really crappy operating systems.” Thankfully, in this case, he was referring to Windows and not the white box operating system that is taking over the data center ecosystem. Torvalds’s own Linux Foundation are now the gatekeepers of community SONiC so it's safe to say he approves this time! The open networking datacenter NOS (network operating system) environment has seen a huge amount of consolidation over the last 5 years. This is down to the emergence of an open-source NOS, graciously gifted to the world by non-other than Microsoft. Linus Torvalds, the creator, and lead developer of the Linux kernel, famously said, “Microsoft isn’t evil, they just make really crappy operating systems.” Thankfully, in this case, he was referring to Windows and not the white box operating system that is taking over the data center ecosystem. Torvalds’s own Linux Foundation are now the gatekeepers of community SONiC so it's safe to say he approves this time!

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