Dell claims to have set a new benchmark for open software in data centre networks with the latest release of the firm's operating system for switches and other kit, now based on a vanilla Linux kernel on top of which standard networking functions can be added from Dell or third-party vendors.
Dell Networking's Operating System 10 (OS10) is the latest release of the platform gained when Dell acquired Force10 Networks several years ago.
With this version, the company claims to have disaggregated the stack from the tightly integrated proprietary offerings typically seen in network switch kit into a base module on top of which the customer can choose to run various networking functions and applications.
Dell has achieved this by using an unmodified Linux distribution for the base module, which talks to the hardware via the Open Compute Project (OCP) Switch Abstraction Interface (SAI). This is an API layer Dell submitted to the OCP last year that does away with the need for the software to be closely tied to the network hardware.
Microsoft also makes use of the SAI for its Azure Cloud Switch detailed at the SIGCOMM conference last year, which is also based on Linux.
Above the base module, OS10 can support traditional networking functions from Dell and third-party vendors, plus native Linux and open source applications covering IP, fabric and security services and management and automation tools. This allows customers to tailor IT operations for different uses and operational processes, the firm said.
The key here appears to be the Control Plane Services sitting atop the base module, which serve as the API layer for developers to build upper level services and applications for OS10.
Dell Networking vice president and general manager Tom Burns said that today's software-defined data centres require a fresh approach to operations, and that Dell is bringing its network platform closer to the model followed by servers, where the same hardware can run different operating systems and applications.
"OS10 is 100 percent Linux-compliant, completely open, completely standard, offering more choice and more consistency with the Linux that's running on data centre customers' storage and server hardware," he said on the Dell4Enterprise blog.
"With OS10 and Open Networking, customers get open choice, solutions that are best-of-breed and cost-effective, rich ecosystems and the ability to build the networks that work best for their specific needs, whether they run a traditional L2/L3 environment, a DevOps environment or anything in between."
Dell expects the OS10 base module to ship in March, while Dell-developed application modules will enter beta testing for release later in the year.
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