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Dell EMC has introduced its first open networking switches to ship with the company's Linux-based network operating system, or NOS -- a platform that could eventually become the foundation for the vendor's data center infrastructure.
Dell EMC unveiled the S5100-ON and S4100-ON top-of-rack (ToR) switches on Monday at the Dell EMC World conference in Las Vegas. Dell EMC's OS10 Enterprise Edition operating system will come standard with each family of switches.
Introduced in January 2016, OS10 is based on an unmodified Linux kernel built on the Debian distribution. The NOS has been available on the company's S-Series 1/10/40 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) ToR switches and its Z-Series fabric switches.
All of Dell EMC's switches can also run operating systems from partners Big Switch Networks, Cumulus Networks, IP Infusion or Pluribus Networks. The latest switches, however, are the first to ship with OS10 -- an indication that the company could be moving toward making the programmable NOS the foundation for automation, orchestration and programming across Dell EMC's server, networking and storage products.
"I think they're progressing in that direction, but they still have work to do," said Brad Casemore, an analyst at IDC. Unanswered networking questions include whether Dell EMC will take OS10 to campus networking and whether it will displace Cumulus' Linux-based NOS.
"Just within the realm of networking, as you can see, Dell needs to provide clarity and guidance on how OS10 fits into its overall open-networking strategy," Casemore said. "There are also open questions about when OS10 will be extended to other infrastructure, such as servers and storage."
For now, OS10 Enterprise Edition, introduced with the new open networking switches, will provide Layer 2 and Layer 3 networking functionality. Companies with engineers familiar with standard Linux and DevOps tools can develop software for OS10 or integrate additional open source capabilities. The NOS also supports third-party Linux apps.
Dell EMC's new open networking switches
The S5100-ON family includes Dell EMC's first 25 GbE ToR open switch. The S5148F-ON is designed for the company's PowerEdge 14G servers, which have native 25 Gb support, and for version 3.0 of the Dell EMC ScaleIO, a software-defined storage product that turns direct-attached storage into shared block storage.
The S5100-ON series includes 100 GbE uplinks for rack-to-rack connectivity found in cloud and hyperscale data centers.
The S4100-ON is designed for racks with 10 GbE fiber or copper, or 8/16/32 Gbps Fibre Channel. The switches include 100 GbE uplinks for inter-rack communications.
For campus networks, Dell EMC introduced the N1100-ON series of fanless switches. The hardware has port configuration from 10/100/1,000 Mbps to 1/10 GbE.
The N1100-ON is designed for Aerohive's HiveManager NG, a management console for the vendor's wireless access points and Dell's wired edge switches. HiveManager NG is best suited for small and medium-sized businesses.
Dell EMC plans to release the S5100-ON family by the end of November and the S4100-ON and N1100-ON series by the end of August.
Dell EMC and Hewlett Packard Enterprise are two of the largest vendors selling switches capable of running their respective operating systems or those from third parties. Proponents said the open approach to networking prevents companies from getting locked into a particular hardware vendor.
Mainstream enterprises, however, have not embraced the concept. Network operators, who tend to be conservative tech buyers, have preferred to stick with established networking hardware with sophisticated management software.
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