Open networking is challenging the status-quo of the networking industry with disaggregated hardware and software, similar to the transformation that happened with x86 compute and Linux software. Software for Open Networking in Clouds (SONiC) and Open Network Linux (ONL),together, create a revolutionary open-source NOS stack for collaborative development in networking. This standardization of hardware and NOS drives commoditization of box-based networking, while simultaneously enabling innovations at the upper layers of the networking stack for organizations such as service providers, SaaS providers and cloud providers.

SONiC and ONL are two open-source software ecosystems that have gained tremendous momentum, and together they enable additional benefits - from rapid innovation across the entire hardware and software stack, to making the software hardware-agnostic. SONiC was founded by Microsoft under OCP (Open Compute Project) and is now powering Microsoft’s massive cloud platform, Azure. It has been hardened through large production deployments across several cloud operators such as Alibaba, Tencent and SaaS companies such as LinkedIn. ONL is an open-source platform software for open networking switches that has been deployed in production across hundreds of enterprises and service providers and is supported on 100+ switching platforms from 12 different switching vendors.

1) What is the SONiC + ONL announcement about?
Big Switch is announcing a technology demonstration of an open source NOS based on an integrated SONiC + ONL software stack, deployed on open networking switches. In addition, examples of configuration automation with Ansible playbook, zero-touch installation and visibility through an SDN controller are also demonstrated. The SONiC + ONL demo software is available for download from the ONL web site.

2) What are the benefits of an open Network Operating System (NOS)?

The benefits of an open-source NOS are similar to those provided by open-source Linux OS in the X86 compute market.  Specifically:-

Innovation: Strong open source ecosystems drive rapid innovation. Traditional networking vendors have stifled innovation with a rigid, proprietary approach for delivering networking software and hardware, tied to timelines that align with individual vendor priorities. Evolving trends such as 5G, IOT, autonomous networking are driving the need for innovation at a rapid pace, and open-source based development provides the opportune path to achieve this goal.
Increased Flexibility: More seamlessly adapt to evolving and ever-changing business requirements and technology advancements
Freedom of Choice: Open-source NOS is structured to run on a variety of open networking hardware, similar to Linux OS on a variety of computing devices. Open-source NOS enables freedom of choice in networking hardware and completely eliminates proprietary vendor-lock in.
Reduced Cost:  Open-source NOS on open networking hardware is enabling commoditization of box-based networking, driving costs lower over proprietary solutions.

3) What kind of users can benefit from open NOS?
The ideal users of an open-source NOS are large software-driven organizations that are seeking alternatives to proprietary networking. This includes SaaS, Cloud providers, service providers (delivering NFV, 5G) who are looking to deploy multi-tier L3 BGP fabric and require:
  • Flexibility to customize stack
  • High Innovation velocity (community-driven)
  • Avoid vendor lock-in
  • Reduced costs
University and research organizations could also have interest in this, as they look to advance networking research.

4) What are the components of the open-source NOS that is being announced?
The SONiC + ONL NOS is comprised of the following open source software components, each of which are widely deployed independently.
  • Open Network Linux (ONL) is the base Platform OS, including ONLP Platform APIs, for 100+ white-box/brite-box platforms
  • Software for Open Networking in the Cloud (SONiC) provides forwarding management, Switch Abstraction Interface (SAI), interface management, telemetry and APIs
  • Free Range Routing (FRR), is the L3 control plane protocol engine (BGP, OSPF etc.)
5) How do I get access to the SONiC + ONL package?
Big Switch Networks has made available a demo version of the SONiC + ONL package to be run on open networking switches. The package can be accessed here.

6) What switching hardware can I use for running this package?
The SONiC + ONL package has been tested with Edgecore switches – AS5712-54X, Accton AS7712-32X and Accton AS7312-54X

7) What are the benefits of SONiC and is it deployed in production?
SONiC is an open source software initiative founded by Microsoft within Open Compute Project (OCP) and is leveraged in Microsoft’s Azure public cloud to accelerate innovation, bring vendor choice and reduce cost. In addition, other SaaS and cloud providers such as LinkedIn, Alibaba, Tencent have also deployed SONiC within their cloud infrastructure.
SONiC is a uniquely extensible and flexible platform that has multiple innovations to help build a high-performant, available and flexible network at scale. SONiC is built on the Switch Abstraction Interface (SAI), which defines a standardized APIs for hardware vendors to implement. This enables a unified NOS solution for forwarding and can help customers leverage advancements in silicon, port density, optics etc. much faster without replacing the software stack. With a modular, containerized architecture, SONiC offers flexibility to create customized packages by picking components as needed as well as extend the packages with new components with minimum effort. SONiC also offers monitoring and diagnostic capabilities such as failure detection, fault correlation, and automatic recovery mechanisms.

8) What are the benefits of ONL and is it deployed in production?
ONL -- an OCP networking project -- is an open source Linux distribution, built for open networking hardware platforms with a unique architecture for pluggable 'forwarding stack’ and ‘device management & programming’ software. It acts as a foundational component for end-users who want to build their own Network Operating System (NOS) on top of open networking switches. It has been validated on 100+ open networking platforms across 12 white-box/brite-box suppliers.
ONL has been leveraged by multiple NOSes across the industry including Google P4-Stratum, Facebook FBOSS, ONF CORD, SnapRoute, Arrcus, NTT NOS Project. ONL is deployed in production across several hundred Global-2000 organizations with Big Switch’s DC networking and monitoring solutions (Big Cloud Fabric (BCF) and Big Monitoring Fabric (BMF)).

9) What are the benefits of combining SONiC and ONL for Open-source NOS?
Leveraging SONiC and ONL for Open NOS combines the benefits of two important open source software stacks which are broadly deployed in large-scale production networks. These offerings have a very broad and extensive backing within the industry, including Microsoft, Facebook, LinkedIn and others to drive open networking. The combination of the two software stacks offer the following benefits:-
  • Innovation Velocity: open-source, community-driven
  • Increased flexibility: provides a customizable NOS platform
  • Freedom of Choice: eliminates vendor lock-in
  • Reduced Cost: lower TCO vs proprietary solutions
10) How can configuration automation achieved with SONiC + ONL?
Data center operators leverage DevOps automation packages to automate and simplify network fabric configuration. SONiC provides infrastructure for network configuration automation through Ansible. A reference demonstration of an Ansible playbook to automate Multi-tier BGP/L3 fabric configuration for white box switches running SONiC + ONL open NOS is provided here.

11) How can we achieve operational simplicity with SONiC + ONL?
While configuration automation through Ansible playbooks can provide operational benefits, there is also a need to automate the switch OS life cycle including image installation, OS upgrades etc. Operational simplicity through image life cycle management can be achieved with an external controller to automate the installation, upgrade of the switch images. A reference demonstration of zero touch image installation for a switch running SONiC + ONL NOS from an external controller has been provided here. The demo also shows the detailed platform-level visibility that are available on the controller CLI and GUI through the ONL platform software running on the switches.

12) Where I can get more information to collaborate on this project?
Please join the mailing list [Subscribe][Archives] for collaborating on this project or if you have any questions.