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Startup Arrcus aims NOS at Cisco, Juniper in the data center

Startup Arrcus has launched a scalable network operating system aimed at all switching tasks in the leaf-spine network. The new ArcOS is a NOS alternative to Cisco and Juniper.

Startup Arrcus has launched a highly scalable network operating system, or NOS, designed to compete with Cisco and Juniper Networks for the entire leaf-spine network in the data center.

Arrcus, based in San Jose, Calif., introduced its debut product, ArcOS, this week. Additionally, the startup announced $15 million in Series A funding from venture capital firms Clear Ventures and General Catalyst.

ArcOS, which has Debian Open Network Linux at its core, enters a crowded market of companies offering stand-alone network operating systems for switching and routing, as well as systems of integrated software and hardware. The latter is a strength of traditional networking companies, such as Cisco and Juniper.

While Arrcus has some catching up to do against its rivals, no company has taken a dominating share of the NOS-only market, said Shamus McGillicuddy, an analyst at Enterprise Management Associates (EMA), based in Boulder, Colo. The majority of vendors count customers in the tens or hundreds at most.

Many companies testing pure-open source operating systems today are likely candidates for commercial products. Vendors, however, must first prove the technology is reliable and fits the requirements of a corporate data center.

"Arrcus has a chance to capture a share of the data center operators that are still thinking about disaggregation," McGillicuddy said. Disaggregation refers to the separation of the NOS from the underlying hardware.

ArcOS hardware support

Arrcus has built its own routing stack that is highly scalable, so it's ideal for covering the entire leaf-and-spine network.
Shamus McGillicuddyanalyst, Enterprise Management Associates

Arrcus supports ArcOS on Broadcom chipsets and white box hardware from Celestica, Delta Electronics, Edgecore Networks and Quanta Computer. The approved chipsets are the StrataDNX Jericho+ and StrataXGS Trident 3, Trident 2 and Tomahawk. Architecturally, ArcOS can operate on other silicon and hardware, but the vendor does not support those configurations.

ArcOS is a mix of open source and proprietary software. The company, for example, uses its version of router protocols, including Border Gateway Protocol, Intermediate System to Intermediate System, Multiprotocol Label Switching and Open Shortest Path First.

"Arrcus has built its own routing stack that is highly scalable, so it's ideal for covering the entire leaf-and-spine network," McGillicuddy said. "The routing scalability also gives Arrcus the ability to do some sophisticated traffic engineering."

The more sophisticated uses for ArcOS include internet peering for internet service providers and makers of content delivery networks, according to Devesh Garg, CEO at Arrcus. "We feel ArcOS can be used anywhere."

ArcOS analytics

Arrcus is also providing analytics for monitoring and optimizing the performance and security of switching and routing, McGillicuddy said. The company has based its analytics on the control plane and data plane telemetry streamed from the NOS.

Because a lot of other NOS vendors lack analytics, "Arrcus is emerging with a more complete solution from an operational standpoint," McGillicuddy said. According to EMA research, many enterprises want embedded analytics in their network infrastructure.

Today, a hardware-agnostic NOS is mostly used by the largest of financial institutions, cloud service providers, and internet and telecommunication companies, analysts said. Tackling networking through disaggregated hardware and software typically requires a level of IT sophistication not found in mainstream enterprises.

Nevertheless, companies find the concept attractive because of the promise of cheaper hardware, faster innovation and less dependence on a single vendor. As a result, the use of a stand-alone NOS is gaining some traction.

Last year, for example, Gartner included NOS makers in its Magic Quadrant for Data Center Networking for the first time. Big Switch Networks and Cumulus Networks met the criteria for inclusion in the "visionaries" quadrant, along with VMware and Dell EMC.

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