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Open Source Router Aims to Transform Data Center Networks

Linux distro optimized to deploy router software and SDN functionality on x86 servers

An industry syndicate has launched a Linux distribution optimized to support deployment of routing software and software defined networks (SDN) on x86 servers.

The open source CloudRouter Project, led by CloudBees, Cloudius Systems, IIX , NGINX, and the OpenDaylight Project, is promising to give IT organizations more control over networking functions deployed on x86 servers in the cloud. Open source router software such as this is a challenge to traditional networking equipment deployed inside most data centers today.

Massive-scale data center operators, such as Facebook, have been building their own networking equipment to have more control of the functionality. But there are also various open source or open standards organizations working to change the way data center networking has been done traditionally.

The open source router project is part of an Open Networking movement that is starting to gain traction in data center environments. Jay Turner, CloudRouter Project lead and senior director of DevOps at IIX, says that as a cloud service provider IIX saw a need for an open source implementation of networking software that combined routing and SDN functionality.

“We saw a need for a high-quality SDN and router distribution,” says Turner. “We developed this initially to meet our own internal needs.”

While most open networking technologies are still relatively immature, IT organizations are looking to reduce the cost of networking by replacing proprietary routers and switches based on custom ASIC processors with software that runs on standard x86 servers.

Turner concedes that it will take a fair amount of time for this transition to play out across most data center environments. But as more application workloads make the shift into the cloud, service providers not only want to reduce networking costs; they also want a simpler way to expose to customers network resources that can dynamically scale up and down.

Based on the Fedora distribution of Linux managed by Red Hat and the Helium release of the open source controller created by OpenDaylight, the open source router provides container support for Docker, Cloudius, OSv, and KVM images along with network connectivity that supports IPSec VPN, SSL, or L2TP security options. In addition, the CloudRouter Project included tools to analyze network protocol traffic along with high availability and failover capabilities.

Optimized for providing network services, CloudRouter Project also provides a much smaller operating system footprint in terms of the amount of IT infrastructure resources consumed than alternative approaches to cloud networking, Turner says.

It is one of several open source networking projects that are promising to transform the economics of networking in the age of the cloud. The degree to which any one of these projects winds up succeeding remains to be seen. But the one thing that is clear is that open source networking software as an alternative to proprietary networking technologies are here to stay.

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