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Testing SONiC, the Linux of Networking

2021-01-29  |  5 min read 

Here in Silicon Valley, perhaps due to the normally incomprehensible gibberish you get from the unholy convergence of technology and marketing, one way of pitching new startups or ideas is to use the construct “the X of Y” to simplify the explanation and perhaps save long rambling descriptions involving the word “disrupt.” It also helps the guys on Sand Hill Road (the VCs) actually have a chance of understanding what you are pitching before they open their purses. The Airbnb of fortified bunkers, DC comics of romance novels, the Dodge Hellcat of kitchen blenders, the Jeep of skateboards. The list goes on. Some better and more interesting than others.

One of these X of Y constructs that is of particular note and interest is SONiC (Software for Open Networking in the Cloud), the Linux of Networking. With origins at Microsoft/Azure, by way of LinkedIn, an early adopter, SONiC was developed and opened sourced in 2017. In the years following, interest and support have increased rapidly. Indeed, in March, 2020, Keysight announced we were joining the SONiC open source network software community.

Being based on Linux, as many good things are including NASA, Chromebooks (did I mention my great love for Chromebooks?) and Japan’s Shinkansen, just to name a few, SONiC is the OS of choice for open or disaggregated data center network switching. Compare and contrast with DENT, another Linux-based offering intended more for campus, edge retail and remote/branch office switching. We support both SONiC and DENT. Learn more about Keysight SONiC/DENT Support.

For folks looking to do work with open data center switching, SONiC does bring some interesting toys to the party. One of the most interesting is the use of a standardized API to abstract the underlaying switch hardware. In this case, the hardware abstraction layer, Switch Abstraction Interface (SAI), is another gift from Microsoft open sourced in 2015. The inclusion of SAI enables ongoing hardware innovation without forcing you to throw away or refactor existing investments in software development.

Other goodies in the SONiC bag of tricks include a modular software system architecture (as opposed to more traditional monolithic designs) with network applications such as BGP, SNMP, DHCP and IPv6 running in containers, allowing individual network applications to be patched or upgraded without bringing the entire switch down. Pretty cool, especially if uptime is a concern, which it should be for anyone building networks.

OK, Let’s Test!

When it is time to test SONiC, you have some options. Regardless of the path you end up taking, you will probably want to ensure that you end up on a path neutral to ASIC, switch and software. One such approach is to use SONiC community-based tests – which are widely viewed as being optimal for unit testing. There are, however, other options. One of them is the Ixia Open NOS Validation Suite. As you would expect, the Open NOS Validation Suite is neutral, but in order to address the sometimes challenging business environment that device makers face when building open source products, we offer:

  • Subscription Test Modules
  • Perpetual License Test Modules
  • Test as a Service Options

Even better, we have partnered with AVIZ Networks to help you jumpstart your testing efforts.

We invite you to learn more about the Ixia Open NOS Validation Suite for SONiC.

 In the meantime, thanks for reading, test well and stay safe.