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Broadcom ships open development platform for bare-metal switches

Broadcom has introduced an open development platform for bare-metal switches built on the vendor's StrataXGS architecture. OpenNSL provides a set of APIs for developers.

Broadcom has introduced an open software platform that developers can use to build networking applications for bare-metal switches powered by the vendor's semiconductors.

The Open Network Switch Library (OpenNSL), unveiled March 9, is an open development platform that includes a set of application programming interfaces (APIs) for developing software for Broadcom's StrataXGS switch architecture.

Broadcom supplies silicon to major switch makers like Cisco, Juniper Networks and Arista Networks, as well as manufacturers of bare-metal hardware that can run the customer's operating system of choice.

OpenNSL is expected to boost the number of applications built for StrataXGS hardware, which is available with 1-, 10-, 40- and 100-gigabit Ethernet ports. The library is targeted at large Internet companies like Facebook, Google and Amazon that are designing their own switches and outsourcing the manufacturing.

Facebook introduced last month an open switch platform called 6-pack, which builds on the social network's hardware design called Wedge and Linux-based operating system, FBOSS.

Facebook is distributing its switching technology through the Open Compute Project that it also founded. Open Compute Project technology is available to any vendor or enterprise willing to join in the collaborative development of infrastructure technology.

Broadcom's open library is important to the Open Compute Project effort because it is critical technology that developers can use without a license from the vendor, according to Eli Karpilovski, Broadcom's director of product marketing.

OpenNSL, which is targeted for use in top-of-rack switches, is a subset of the Broadcom software development kit licensed to hardware manufacturers, Karpilovski said. APIs in the latest library address Layer 2 and Layer 3 network services, virtual local area networks and some switch management features.

OpenNSL also supports Broadcom's BroadView open software that provides congestion monitoring and shows remaining capacity.

Karpilovski emphasized that the library did not indicate that Broadcom was moving toward developing a switching control plane provided by companies like Cumulus Networks and Big Switch Networks.

"All we do is provide a mapper that allows you to program your network OS or application on top of our silicon," Karpilovski said.

Applications that could be built using OpenNSL include firewalls and software for network monitoring, load balancing and traffic engineering, Karpilovski said.

OpenNSL and Broadview are available on the code-sharing site GitHub.

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