Supermicro, one of the top suppliers of low-cost data center hardware, often referred to as “commodity hardware,” launched a line of bare-metal data center switches that come pre-loaded with an install environment that allows user to load a Linux-based network operating system.
The vendor made the announcement together with Cumulus Networks, which sells a Linux distribution for bare-metal switches, and which also created the open source install environment, called Open Network Install Environment, or ONIE.
Theoretically, ONIE is supposed to enable installation of any Linux OS designed to run network switches, but Supermicro is billing its latest data center switches as “Cumulus-ready.” The product is easily integrated with Cumulus Linux.
Supermicro is the latest major network hardware vendor to support Cumulus. The list already includes HP, Dell, Juniper, and a smaller shop called Penguin Computing.
Open switches are a growing trend. They are a lower-cost alternative to closed, proprietary hardware-software bundles traditionally sold by major data center network vendors like Cisco, HP, and Juniper. Pioneered by web-scale data center operators, such as Google and Facebook, using Linux variants to run commodity network switches is an alternative companies like Cumulus, Big Switch, and Arista are trying to convince a broader market to adopt.
Besides flexibility, the alternative also enables sys admins that have not specialized in network management to manage data center networks using familiar Linux.
Facebook has designed and recently open sourced an entire stack of data center switch hardware and software stack an end user or vendor with some degree of engineering muscle can use to create their own network infrastructure. The designs are available through Facebook’s open source hardware and data center design initiative called the Open Compute Project.
As open switches gain steam in the market beyond web-scale data centers, a handful of traditional hardware vendors have also added open products to their portfolios. HP, Dell, and Juniper have all recently introduced commodity hardware that can run network software by other vendors.
Just earlier this month, Dell announced yet another line of top-of-rack switches that can be used with different non-Dell operating systems.
Also today, Cumulus announced a new management software for out-of-band management switches in data centers. Called Cumulus Rack Management Platform, it is meant to give customers a common interface for the full rack.