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Open, disaggregated networking: Are we ready yet?

2021-04-13  |  3 min read 

Open, disaggregated networking: Are we ready yet?

Networking has been disrupted at each and every layer. Open Compute Project (OCP), Open Networking Forum (ONF), and the likes have created forums to drive innovation of open networking operating systems (NOS) by abstracting the hardware layer to enable use with any standard hardware platform. A community-driven approach enables collaboration and real technology openness to speed disruptive solutions to market.

One of the leaders when it comes to open NOS is Software for Open Networking in the Cloud (SONiC). A brainchild of Microsoft Azure and endorsed by OCP, SONiC has spread its presence in modern-day data centers especially in the top of the rack (ToR or T0) and Leaf (T1) layers of an IPCLOS architecture. SONiC is growing its footprint in the T1 and T0 and beyond into the spine and super spine. The recent “Gartner 2021 Market Guide for Data Center Switching report,” predicts that “by 2025, 40% of organizations that operate large data center networks (more than 200 switches) will run SONiC in production environments". [1] With its containerized approach, it has opened a playground for collaborators to build on top of it. What that means is key players like hyperscalers and cloud service providers are now empowered to build a NOS for their deployment by using SONiC as the building block.

SONiC, the base layer, has to be a rock-solid foundation for this to be successful. While open-source solutions have a lot of pros, they also come with challenges. One of the very important hurdles to cross is that to make sure testing and validation are performed at each stage of the integration. In my various conversations with vendors, network operators, and hyperscalers about the SONiC ecosystem, I have come across a common pattern. Everyone needs to harden their SONiC implementation. Community test cases provide a baseline at the feature test level, but to get to market faster and stay ahead of the curve one really needs to think beyond. Below is a whitepaper where I discuss the findings from community conversations and Keysight's efforts to accelerate SONiC adoption.



[1] Gartner, Market Guide for Data Center Switching, Andrew Lerner, et al., Published 8 March 2021