As networking continues to evolve and drive versatility, we can look back and learn from similar changes that ensued in the mainframe industry. The past provides insight into how networking will likely transform – just as the mainframes transitioned to the disaggregated x86 server model. Mainframes were tightly coupled with proprietary processors and operating systems, which resulted in limited applications and choice. The move to the x86 server model enabled by generalized processors allowed for various choices of operating systems and a wide ecosystem of applications. The change also drove new ways to scale and manage the compute infrastructure with distributed applications and automation tools. The same concepts are being applied in the networking industry today – led by Dell Open Networking and Big Switch SDN fabric solutions.
With Open Networking, Dell is delivering loosely coupled common network hardware and software to bring versatility, best of breed, open systems that accelerate innovation while lowering the cost. Like it did with servers, Dell is driven to provide choice and agility to the consumer through the disaggregation of networking hardware and software. Users have a choice to implement the best solutions through a choice of operating systems on the same open network hardware as requirements change. All of this is made possible through the wide adoption of merchant silicon from providers such as Broadcom and the combination of common hardware components to manufacture the systems. Prior to merchant silicon, networking vendors were building custom ASICs with software coupled to enable differentiated capabilities. Initially this was necessary to drive the throughput, capabilities and scale, but merchant network processors today match or exceed the proprietary designs.
With the arrival of powerful merchant silicon, even traditional networking vendors have coupled their software (albeit tightly) with merchant silicon hardware in their product portfolio. Dell was one of the first major systems provider that enabled an ecosystem of software solutions to run on open network hardware. Big Switch, on the other hand, led SDN-powered fabric software development on an ecosystem of open networking hardware. In this joint solution, Dell and Big Switch are delivering new capabilities to the market, with Dell being a single point for supplying hardware, Big Switch’s SDN software, as well as for maintenance, support, services and logistics.
Figure 1: Dell & Big Switch - Accelerating SDN Deployments
Dell and Big Switch joint solution is described in the above figure. Big Switch’s two SDN fabrics – Big Tap Monitoring Fabric and Big Cloud Fabric – are implemented on Dell’s 10G/40G open networking switches. Each fabric solution is defined by corresponding SDN controller that interacts with Big Switch’s Switch Light OS – a light-weight network operating system architected for SDN – running on Dell switches. Initially, Switch Light is available on the following switches:
All Dell open networking switches support Open Network Installation Environment (ONIE) standard for automatic booting via the network, thus requiring no manual OS installation on switches. Also, with the SDN fabric controller, the entire switch fabric is treated like a single logical switch, thus completely eliminating unnecessary complexity of box-by-box switch management, upgrade, operational workflows and trouble-shooting.
Big Tap Monitoring Fabric is currently shipping on Dell switches. The Big Tap solution is an ideal next-generation network packet broker (NPB) solution that is highly scalable, extremely simple to operate and dramatically lower cost. Customers can order the entire 10G/40G Big Tap solution – inclusive of HW, SW and Support – directly from Dell. It’s best of both worlds for global data center customers – bring innovating, TCO-reducing SDN solutions with built-in vendor choice while rely on the trusted Dell brand.
Big Switch’s flagship product – Big Cloud Fabric, an SDN leaf/spine Clos fabric powering Dell’s 10G/40G Trident-II based open networking switches – will be ready for customer trials in December 2014. Dell customers would be able to build modern hyperscale-style pod networks (with SDN SW & open network HW) for use cases such as public/private clouds, Big Data Analytics and VDI. With multi-hypervisor support, pods can be deployed with VMware vSphere, Microsoft Hyper-V as well as Open-source KVM/Xen hypervisors based on workload needs. For public/private clouds, the Big Cloud Fabric tightly integrates with OpenStack Nova Networking as well as Neutron, and enhances Horizon GUI with fabric-specific visibility. Support for CloudStack/CloudPlatform orchestration is also planned.
Director, North American Strategy, Open Networking at Dell
VP of Product Management & Strategy