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ONOS-based open switches power leaf-spine fabric for cloud, carriers

The ONOS project has introduced a Layer 2/3 leaf-spine fabric comprised of the group's operating system and Edgecore Networks' open switches.

Developers of an open source network operating system have launched a Layer 2/3 leaf-spine fabric on bare-metal open switches powered by the group's NOS.

Introduced Thursday, the fabric is designed for the data centers of large cloud service providers and carriers, as well as the central offices of the latter. The technology is undergoing field tests as part of the Central Office Re-architected as a Datacenter initiative led by the Open Networking Lab. ON.Lab is leading the engineering effort behind the NOS, which is called the Open Network Operating System (ONOS).

ONOS proponents envision a vendor-agnostic software-defined networking architecture. The effort to build the open source OS is worth following, because the technology, or some of its components, could eventually trickle down to enterprise data centers, analysts said.

Switches based on Open Compute Project design

The fabric is built on Edgecore Networks' open switches, which are based on a design approved by the Open Compute Project. The OCP, founded by Facebook, is dedicated to developing open hardware.

The switches' software components include Open Network Linux, a base-level OS that passes along packet-forwarding instructions to the Broadcom ASIC via its OpenFlow Data Plane Abstraction API. ONOS gets the instructions from any SDN controller that uses the OpenFlow protocol for communications.

ONOS and its complementary technology are too do-it-yourself for the majority of enterprises. "Enterprises typically go for a fully integrated system from a trusted vendor, because they do not have the resources to build the infrastructure themselves," said Jim Duffy, an analyst at 451 Research.

Open source networking technology could reach mainstream enterprises after carriers and service providers prove it's beneficial, drawing the attention of industries typically on the bleeding edge of technology. Large pharmaceutical companies and banks are examples of early adopters of cutting-edge technology.

Because of their size, early adopters can pressure technology suppliers to adopt open source code that reduces the chance of customers getting locked into a particular product, said John Fruehe, an analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, based in Austin, Texas. Once that happens, more flexible, nonproprietary technology starts entering the data centers of mainstream enterprises.

Carriers attracted to ONOS open switches

Telecommunications companies adopting SDN are using ONOS. A survey last December by research firm Enterprise Management Associates found 36% of telcos implementing the architecture had incorporated ONOS into their projects.

"I wouldn't call that an adoption rate, since service providers are clearly backing multiple SDN projects in order to foster an ecosystem," said Shamus McGillicuddy, an analyst at EMA, based in Boulder, Colo. "But it does show that a lot of service providers are interacting with the ONOS project to determine if it will serve their needs."

Dell and Hewlett Packard Enterprise are the largest networking vendors currently selling open switching hardware that let companies choose a NOS from a short list of developers, including Cumulus Networks and Pica8.

Next Steps

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Making operator SDN a reality with an open transport switch

The basics of bare-metal switching

Dig Deeper on Open source networking