Linux Foundation Backs HPE’s Open Source Switch OS

Non-profit to take over hosting and management of OpenSwitch project

Yevgeniy Sverdlik

June 1, 2016

2 Min Read
Network cables
(Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

OpenSwitch, the operating system for data center network switches Hewlett-Packard Enterprise launched last year as an open source project together with a number of other networking heavyweights, has become an official Linux Foundation project, the foundation announced today.

The foundation provides infrastructure and management resources for open source projects it accepts, as well as the exposure to open source developers that may be more inclined to contribute because of the organization’s pedigree. It hosts some of the most influential open source infrastructure projects, such as Cloud Foundry, OpenDaylight, and Zen Project.

Being under the Linux Foundation’s wing also means a project is administered by a neutral non-profit organization rather than by one or more profit-driven vendors.

HPE launched the Linux-based OpenSwitch project together with Arista Networks, Intel Corp., Broadcom Corp., VMware, and Accton Technology Corp. It is a play to grab a piece of the growing market for so-called white-box or brite-box data center switches – low-cost commodity switches customers can install software of their choice on. These are a web-scale data center alternative to the pre-integrated, proprietary switching stacks the likes of Cisco Systems, Juniper Networks, as well as HPE, have traditionally sold to enterprise data center operators.

OpenSwitch followed pioneering stand-alone Linux-based network operating systems for data centers by software startups Cumulus Networks and Big Switch Networks.

HPE’s switch line for this market is called Altoline. Accton, one of the OpenSwitch project’s founders, manufactures these switches for the vendor.

One big end-user contributor to the open source project is LinkedIn, which is in the middle of a wholesale overhaul of its data center design and strategy, switching to a web-scale infrastructure that consists of a lot of custom technology created in-house.

LinkedIn has designed its own data center switches and a networking software stack, but its engineers want to focus their efforts on designing the control plane and features for the application layer and not on building a network OS from scratch, which is why they’ve been involved in OpenSwitch, Zaid Ali Kahn, the company’s senior director of global infrastructure architecture and strategy, explained in a blog post Wednesday.

OpenSwitch is one of the open source and commercial options LinkedIn is evaluating as a potential OS that will run underneath its custom control plane.

“While scaling our data centers out, we want to control the complexity of data center fabric by moving toward a fully-automated, self-healing, and purpose-built application-centric network that operates on its own,” Kahn wrote. “By building a native Linux-based network operating system with open interfaces, it is now possible to manage switches and extend visibility, controls, and applications to network elements in the same way we do on servers.”

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