New Open API Decouples Network OS from Network Silicon
The Dell S600 – one of the switches in Dell’s open network portfolio. (Photo: Dell)

New Open API Decouples Network OS from Network Silicon

Facebook, Microsoft, Dell create common software interface for variety of network silicon

A group of vendors and data center operators, including Dell, Facebook, and Microsoft, have created a piece of software that abstracts network silicon for the network operating system.

Called Switch Abstraction Interface, it is a network API (application programming interface) that enables the OS to control the underlying switch regardless of the kind of silicon it is running. The usual approach has been to write unique conversion code for each type of silicon.

As Dell Open Networking director Adnan Bhutta put it in a blog post, the concept is similar to developers not having to think about whether their application will run on an Intel- or an AMD-based server. “SAI is a standardized API to express switch abstractions,” he wrote.

Besides the three companies already mentioned, Broadcom, Intel, and Mellanox also participated in development of of the open network API. The companies announced today they have submitted it to the Open Compute Project, the Facebook-led open source hardware and data center design community.

OCP is holding its annual summit in San Jose, California, this week.

The idea is to enable developers to customize network software more freely. Silicon vendors may also benefit from being able to address a broader customer base.

The announcement is yet another step toward freedom to customize data center network software, which has traditionally been proprietary, shipped together with network hardware it is closely coupled with.

Another announcement that was made in conjunction with the OCP summit took a step in that direction. A startup called Big Switch announced that OCP had accepted its open Linux operating system for network switches as a reference network OS.

TAGS: Open Source
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