The momentum behind the Open Networking movement and Open Compute (OCP) in particular is staggering.  This week, just in time for the Open Compute large annual summit in San Jose, an impressive collection of companies are coming together around Open Networking and announcing plans involving our Open Network Linux ( open source project.  In addition to trying to capture all the announcements in one place, I wanted to provide some context for what is being announced (for DIY and hobbyists) and when it might be productized and coming to a network near you (for CIO's and network managers).

If you're the "TL;DR" [1] type:

  • DIY folks can jump directly to ONL’s color-coded software architecture diagram - new components are in bold red text.

  • CIO/Network Managers can jump to the last two paragraphs for what comes next.

In case you missed it, Open Network Linux (ONL) is a Linux distribution for bare metal, white box, "brite box", and open OCP switch hardware.  It includes the necessary hardware drivers, platform abstractions, and software components for a DIY tinkerer, hobbyist, or enterprising startup to more quickly create their own Network Operating System (NOS).  Open Network Linux is at the core of Big Switch Network's Switch Light SDN OS and is quickly getting adopted by other commercial companies including Pica8 and others.  We first announced ONL in a blog post at last year's OCP Summit, so it's impressive to see how things have grown since then.  Today, we are particularly proud to announce that ONL has passed all of the phases of the OCP’s Incubation Committee (IC) and is now formally an OCP project.

In addition to ONL’s formal acceptance into OCP, there are five(!) other press worthy ONL announcements happening today.  First, our partners Accton/Edge Core networks have announced that they will port ONL onto all of their switches, including their brand new 40G AS6712-32X and their new 100G switch, the AS7712-32X.  Second, we are proud to join Broadcom in supporting their new OpenNSL API so that hobbyists can now program their own packet forwarding algorithms directly to the underlying hardware.  Third, building on OpenNSL, ONL is proud to join with the likes of Dell, Microsoft, Broadcom, Mellanox and others in support of the Switch Abstraction Interface (SAI).  Stepping back, SAI and OpenNSL, along with the previously published OF-DPA provide programmers with their choice of interface for how to best and most efficiently program the underlying packet forwarding hardware.  Additionally, last week a group of companies, including Big Switch Networks, got together for Optics Conformance Testing of Open Compute switch hardware.

Perhaps the most interesting news this OCP Summit is that we are pleased to announce that ONL will be integrating with the Facebook Wedge switch and their FBOSS agent. Work has started on porting ONL to the Wedge switch and perhaps more interestingly, porting FBOSS onto the ONL Platform APIs as well as Broadcom’s OpenNSL platform. This Wedge-ONL-OpenNSL-FBOSS (“WOOF”) stack is the first, complete, top-to-bottom open networking stack, built from open hardware, on an open NOS, with an open forwarding agent.  While this particular stack may or may not be the right design choice for your network, it serves as a fully fleshed out example in OCP that proves that the network is now open.

Stepping back a bit, while these open networking data points are nice milestones for hobbyists, it’s important to note that they’re also furthering the state of the art of commercially deployed, production networks.  For example, because of today’s announcements, it’s easier to port our commercial Switch Light OS to more platforms because it’s based on ONL.  Likewise, the additional optics testing makes it easier to expand our commercial optics HCL, providing more choice and lower costs to our end-customers.  Even the new OpenNSL and SAI APIs mean that there are more eyes looking at the code, ensuring that the code is more mature and better tested.  In other words, we see these steps towards open networking with ONL as steps where everyone wins -- hobbyists and CIO’s alike.

– Rob Sherwood, CTO, Big Switch Networks