10-03-2016, 08:14 #1
[EN] Microsoft gives away Debian-based SDN software SONiCJulie Bort
Mar. 9, 2016,
Microsoft on Wednesday made waves in the tech industry when it announced that it is giving away for free some software it designed for its own internal use called Software for Open Networking in the Cloud (SONiC).
And this news can't be making Cisco happy. It also pits Redmond against white-box network operating systems from the likes of HP and Cumulus Networks.
SONiC is software used to run an up-and-coming type of computer network switch that is rising in popularity, known as software-defined networking (SDN), that threatens to overturn Cisco's stranglehold on the network switch industry.
SDN takes all the fancy features that an expensive switch offers and puts them into software, making networks easier to program, update and change. You still need the hardware, but you can use less of it, or less expensive models.
Microsoft is giving SONiC software away as part of its work with the Open Compute Project (OCP), an organization founded by Facebook to build "open source" hardware for data centers the same way that the people behind the Linux operating system do with free, open source software.
OCP hardware designs are available for free for anyone to use, change, and contribute changes back to the group to use. Contract manufacturers are standing by to build the hardware.
Microsoft developed SONiC to use in its own cloud computing data centers.
It's using it now to support its Azure and Office 365, Azure CTO Mark Russinovich tells Business Insider.
"We have it in production. One of the things we wanted to do was submit something that we were confident was well-thought through and would work," he says.
Microsoft uses Linux, not Windows
One more astounding thing about SONiC is that it's based on the Linux operating system (specifically a flavor of Linux called Debian), and not on Windows.
SONiC builds upon the Linux-based Azure Cloud Switch (ACS) operating system that we learned about in September.
ACS is the brains of switches in Microsoft's Azure cloud: the code can run on all sorts of hardware from different equipment makers, and uses a common C API – the Switch Abstraction Interface (SAI) – to program the specialist chips in the networking gear. This means ACS can control and manage network devices and implement features as required regardless of who made the underlying electronics.
This underlying hardware must therefore implement the SAI, an API that Microsoft contributed to the Open Compute Project (OCP) in 2015. The OCP encourages hardware manufacturers to produce generic gear to the project's open standards and specifications so large organizations can buy the machines cheaply in bulk and use software to customize and control the gear as they wish.
Microsoft now hopes to contribute ACS's sibling SONiC to the OCP so organizations can pick and choose their switch hardware and shape their networks as needed using Redmond's software.
SONiC is available for download now from Microsoft's Azure GitHub repo under a mix of open-source licenses including the GNU GPL and the Apache license.
Two big partners are missing
Microsoft lined up partners for SONiC, to help other companies adopt it.
- Arista, makers of software programmable switches and Cisco's hated rival
- Broadcom, the company that manufactures many of the chips used in network equipment
- Dell, which has been heavily involved in OCP and has been going after the SDN market in a big way
- Mellanox, another company that offers a programmable switch.
Two big names not working with SONiC? Cisco and VMware. VMware is the company that offers its own SDN software and wants to lead the SDN revolution.
Specifically, what SONiC does is offer a standard way to to control and program a network switch, the piece of equipment at the center of every computer network.
SONiC will work with any just about switch as long as it exposes its guts and allows itself to be programmed. That theoretically includes certain Cisco switches.
"People can take advantage of different switches from different vendors and have them plug into their software-defined networks, Russinovich told us. This "makes it easy to move from one to another vendor, or mix and match from different vendors."
That can't be music to Cisco's ears.
It's built its network equipment empire – owning as much as 60% of the market – by making its products very sticky. Network engineers study for years to master the intracacies of operating a Cisco network, which makes these folks loath to buy, and learn, another vendor's software.
In fact, that's the main reason Cisco is currently suing Arista. Arista designed its software to work a lot like Cisco's.
The isn't the first networking project Microsoft donated to the OCP. In July, it OCP accepted some software that also helps companies program their networks.
As for how this affects Cisco or any incumbant network vendor, Russinovich tells us it doesn't matter. SDN is the future and it's here now.
"It's the reality of networking. Networking has to become software defined to operate at the agility of a hyperscale cloud, or any large data center that wants to support the speed that businesses want services to be deployed."
Cisco does have game in the SDN market. It's got its own super-fast Nexus 9000 switch, which run some of Cisco's optional, programmable software. And Cisco says it is selling very well.
But OCP is still challenging Cisco's whole model, offering new and lower-cost choices for building networks.
Cisco's new CEO might see the writing on the wall. He's been acquiring companies at a frantic pace to get Cisco into the next big things.
10-03-2016, 08:21 #2
OS10: Dell serves up its own disaggregated OS
Debian-based OS10 designed to meld switches, servers, storage into a software-defined data center
Jan 20, 2016
Dell, one of the industry’s first disaggregators, this week began an initiative to decouple its software.
The company unveiled an operating system that separates the applications and services from the base OS platform. Called OS10, Dell plans to make it its strategic operating systems offering, extending from Dell switches to also power its servers and storage products.
OS10 is based on a native, “unmodified” Linux kernel that can support a broad range of applications and services from the Linux ecosystem, Dell officials say. Dell claims this differentiates it from Cumulus Networks’ Cumulus Linux and HP’s OpenSwitch effort for disaggregated and “open” network operating systems.
Dell has an arrangement with Cumulus, as well as Big Switch Networks, IPinfusion, Midokura and Pluribus Networks to run their software on Dell switches. Dell officials say these relationships will continue despite the introduction of OS10.
“We’ll continue to work with Cumulus,” says Tom Burns, vice president and general manager for Dell Networking and Enterprise Infrastructure. “We’ve always offered a Dell alternative” to third-party offerings.
Juniper Networks is also disaggregating its Junos operating system.
OS10 is comprised of a base module and various optional application modules separated to offer choice, control and programmability, the company says. This is an alternative to bundled and tightly-integrated, vendor-specific stacks, Dell says.
The OS10 base module is available for free and can leverage the Linux community-based contributions to aid programmability and portability. Linux can provide a common language across multiple IT layers including networking, storage and compute, Dell says.
Dell has augmented the base module with the Open Compute Project Switch Abstraction Interface (SAI), which is designed to enable a common, programmer-friendly language between vendor network operating systems and the particular silicon residing on the physical switch. SAI helps web-scale companies and cloud providers take advantage of the latest silicon by enabling them to program the switches more granularly, Dell says.
On top of the base module are the OS10 application modules. These modules include traditional Layer 2/3 networking functions and other IP, fabric, security, and management and automation tools from Dell, Linux, third-parties and the open source community.
Separation of the OS10 application modules from the base module allows customers to tailor IT operations for different use case and operational processes, Dell says.
In addition to network operations, OS10 is designed to appeal to DevOps communities seeking a consistent, common development environment across server, storage and networking elements to meld into a software-defined data center. Burns says a single IT operating system like OS10 will help eliminate complexity across the data center.
OS10 can also be the basis for Virtual Network Functions offered by service providers as CPE for customers looking for a range of easily changeable services, such as firewalls, load balancing, WAN optimization and storage, Dell says.
Dell plans to ship the OS10 base module in March. Dell-developed application modules will enter beta testing then for release later in the year. And Dell hardware platform released in the last two years will support OS10, Burns says.
10-03-2016, 08:27 #3
Dell's new switch OS could become much more after EMC merger
Dell has introduced a Debian-based switch OS that is likely to become a major component of the company's data center infrastructure products.
21 Jan 2016
Dell's latest switch OS has the potential to become the software foundation across the company's portfolio of data center infrastructure products following the acquisition of EMC and its subsidiary, VMware.
Dell introduced Operating System 10 (OS10) this week at a news conference in San Francisco. The latest version of the network operating system (NOS) that powers Dell switches is based on an unmodified Linux kernel that is built on the Debian distribution.
For tech buyers, Dell is adding the OS to the choices they have for the vendor's switches. Companies can buy a Dell switch today with an NOS from Big Switch Networks, Cumulus Networks, IP Infusion or Pluribus Networks.
A baseline version of OS10 is scheduled to ship by the end of February. A premium version will be available in beta at the same time, with general availability expected by the end of August. Initially, companies can run OS10 on Dell S-Series 1/10/40 GbE top-of-rack switches. Dell will offer the OS on Z-Series fabric switches later in the year.
Much more than a switch OS
While OS10 is a switch OS today, it is expected to become much more after Dell completes the $67 billion acquisition of EMC and gains control over VMware. That deal is supposed to close mid-year.
"Today, this is about a Linux NOS, but it is likely to serve as the software foundation for a unified Linux across all Dell's data center infrastructure -- compute, network and storage," said Brad Casemore, an analyst at IDC. That foundation could make it easier "to automate, program and orchestrate using common tools and DevOps practices."
Indeed, OS10 could become a key networking component in EMC's converged and hyper-converged systems sold under the VCE brand. Those systems combine computing, storage, networking and virtualization into a single system.
Dell's OS could also become the networking option for the company's partnership with VMware on hyper-converged systems. Today, Dell sells an appliance that combines its servers and storage with VMware's EVO:RAIL infrastructure software.
Other possible uses for OS10 include running VMware's network virtualization platform, called NSX, over Dell switches. Today, NSX is available on Dell switches powered by Cumulus, which also sells a Linux-based NOS.
"Perhaps network provisioning [with NSX] in a converged infrastructure -- provisioning racks, including switches -- can be made easier in the future so that one can provision physical and virtual networks more easily than people do today," said Dan Conde, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group in Milford, Mass.
Sales of Cumulus OS on Dell switches could suffer as a result of OS10. "Of all Dell's open-networking software partners, Cumulus is most in the crosshairs of OS10," Casemore said.
VMware expected to favor Dell
In general, VMware is likely to prefer Dell in deals involving NSX over Cisco, which has a competing software framework, called Application Centric Infrastructure. Today, roughly three quarters of NSX customers run the software on Cisco hardware, according to VMware.
"From a VMware perspective, I think they'd rather have Dell in there," said John Fruehe, an analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy, based in Austin, Texas. Cisco is a much greater threat because the company "tends to take control of opportunities when they're in there."
Initially, Dell is aiming OS10 at financial institutions, tech companies building out cloud services and other enterprises with large software-defined data centers. Dell will compete for their business with Arista Networks, Cisco and Hewlett Packard Enterprise.
The premium version of OS10 adds on top of the operating system management tools, IP services, policy control, and a full stack of Layer 2 and Layer 3 services. Dell plans to provide third-party applications, such as automation tools, and fabric and security services. The company did not disclose pricing.
OS10 runs on top of the switch abstraction interface, which provides a common language between the NOS and the silicon powering the physical switch. As a result, Dell could offer OS10 on other vendors' hardware, but has chosen to make it available only on Dell switches.
10-03-2016, 12:00 #4
Microsoft showcases the Azure Cloud Switch (ACS)
September 17, 2015
Both the cloud and the enterprise depend on high-speed, highly available networks to power their services. This makes it critical for network operators to be able to control their own destiny by rapidly adding to their network features they need while keeping out feature changes that increase risk and complexity.
At Microsoft, we believe there are many excellent switch hardware platforms available on the market, with healthy competition between many vendors driving innovation, speed increases, and cost reductions. However, what the cloud and enterprise networks find challenging is integrating the radically different software running on each different type of switch into a cloud-wide network management platform. Ideally, we would like all the benefits of the features we have implemented and the bugs we have fixed to stay with us, even as we ride the tide of newer switch hardware innovation.
The Azure Cloud Switch (ACS) is our foray into building our own software for running network devices like switches. It is a cross-platform modular operating system for data center networking built on Linux. ACS allows us to debug, fix, and test software bugs much faster. It also allows us the flexibility to scale down the software and develop features that are required for our datacenter and our networking needs.
ACS also allows us to share the same software stack across hardware from multiple switch vendors. This is done via the Switch Abstraction Interface (SAI) specification, the first open-standard C API for programming network switching ASICs, of the Open Compute Project (OCP). Microsoft was a founding member of the SAI effort and remains a leading contributor to the project as we view SAI as an instrumental piece to make the ACS a success.
While the ACS respects and learns from the experiences of years of quality switch software stacks, it deviates in many aspects from conventional switch software stack to achieve some of the objectives just highlighted.
Traditional switch software is built for several customers with several scenarios and feature requests. Since the ACS focuses on feature development based on Microsoft priorities, it has a Lean Stack. The thin software stack focuses on software needed for our Datacenter Networks and strives to fix, test and remediate network device software bugs faster than the current run rate. The ACS is also a Modular Stack as opposed to one monolithic image. The advantages of a lean and modular stack are plenty. It makes validation easier with less probability for hidden, high priority bugs and reduces new feature request time lag.
ACS strives for Easier Configuration and Management by integrating with Microsoft’s monitoring and diagnostics system. By deviating from the traditional enterprise interactive model of command line interfaces, it allows for switches to be managed just as servers are with weekly software rollouts and roll backs thus ensuring a mature configuration and deployment model.
ACS believes in the power of Open Networking. ACS together with the open, standardized SAI interface allows us to exploit new hardware faster and enables us to ride the tide of ASIC innovation while simultaneously being able to operate on multiple platforms. Running on Linux, ACS is able to make use of its vibrant ecosystem. ACS allows to use and extend Open Source, Microsoft, and Third Party applications. The main functional blocks from top to the bottom of the ACS stack are shown in the figure below.
Applications: These include open source applications such as Quagga, Microsoft specific applications that could relate to an entire configuration management system like Autopilot or a feature like SWAN, and also third party applications.
Switch State Service (SSS): The SSS is a subset of the global network state. It helps in driving the switch towards its goal state. It avails open source key-value pair stores like Redis to manage all switch states requirements. Having a database layer which is also a SAI object management sublayer helps in the object sharing and dependency among different applications. The database is modular and provides application with a view of the states.
SAI: Before SAI, the underlying complexity of the hardware, with its strict coupling of protocol stack software, denied us the freedom to choose the best combination of hardware and software for our networking needs. SAI allows software to program multiple switch chips without any changes, thus making the base router platform simple, consistent, and stable. A standardized API also allows network hardware vendors to develop innovative hardware architectures to achieve great speeds while keeping the programming interface consistent. Additionally, SAI also enables open and easier software development of features, stacks, and applications. As of July 2015, SAI has been officially accepted into the Open Compute Project (OCP).
Vendor provided hardware and software: This comprises of the actual ASICs, its drivers, the software development kit (SDKs) which talk northbound to the SAI.
The ACS with SAI was demonstrated at the SIGCOMM conference in August 2015. It showcased the ACS, four ASIC vendors (Mellanox, Broadcom, Cavium, and the Barefoot software switch), six implementations of SAI (Broadcom, Dell, Mellanox, Cavium, Barefoot, and Metaswitch), and three applications stacks (Microsoft, Dell, and Metaswitch).
It showcased the ACS’ lean and modular stack. It unleashed the power of a standardized SAI, an ASIC agnostic interface by having one software application talk to the various ASICs. Additionally, the ACS also interworked with Dell’s and Metaswitch’s application stacks. The features were demonstrated on a real world clos topology that Microsoft uses in its datacenters. The features encompassed basic layer3 router functionality to complicated ones such as QoS.
We’re talking about ACS publicly as we believe this approach of disaggregating the switch software from the switch hardware will continue to be a growing trend in the networking industry and we would like to contribute our insights and experiences of this journey starting here.
14-03-2016, 16:12 #5
Service providers say sayonara to ASICs
A leader of the movement to software-defined networks gives his view of its outlook and implications for semiconductors as an annual summit opens.
Silicon Shift Ahead in Comms
Guru Parulkar sees a sweeping change spreading through the communications industry over the next three to five years, and he has a call to action for chip makers.
Service providers will transform their networks to look more like the data centers today’s Web giants build. To make the shift, they need simple comms chips that are easy to program, and they want them yesterday.
The new networks will be more flexible, letting carriers and even their customers create new features using software tools similar to the ones IT departments use today. The so-called software — defined networks (SDNs) will essentially sweep away many of the relatively expensive and complex systems today’s networks use built on ASICs and proprietary APIs from companies that range from the former Alcatel-Lucent to ZTE.
“ASICs will have a role in niche contexts but big switch and router people are going to need to build solutions using merchant silicon — that trend is clear and unstoppable,” said Parulkar who runs two labs helping develop the new code. “Engineers should focus on software and writing value-added applications and services rather than focus on ASICs and software related to them,” he told me.
“I think we are at a point where things will start happening rapidly. We have been working on SDN ideas for eight years. So we are still talking about 10-15 years total for them to become mainstream,” he said.
It’s an ambitious vision, but its gaining traction. Five service providers — AT&T, China Unicom, NTT, SK Telecom and Verizon – have already joined Parulkar’s ON.Lab, formed four years ago to work on SDN. This week they will show their latest work at the annual Open Networking Summit, a gathering of SDN proponents.
Central Office Re-architected as Data Center (CORD) is a mélange of open-source software stacks that aim’s to handle all the functions of a telco central office on a bank of servers and switches. AT&T is preparing for a field trial of a version of the code for delivering access services to residential customers. Others will demo at the show proof-of-concepts of versions of the code for mobile and enterprise networks.
Backers of CORD include service providers in On.Lab as well as more than a dozen systems and chip makers including Broadcom, Cavium, Ciena, Cisco, Ericsson, Flextronics, Fujitsu, Huawei, Intel, NEC and Nokia.
A concept of a software-defined network based on CORD
Service providers are so motivated by the need to lower their costs and increase their agility, they recently helped create a separate group with Facebook. The Telco Infra Project (TIP) is focused on creating open-source hardware and software for access and backhaul networks just as Facebook’s Open Compute Project (OCP) creates it for data centers.
Its ironic Facebook convened TIP. Many service providers hate such Web giants for turning them into dumb (and relatively expensive pipes) over which they deliver their value-added services.
In this climate shifting to SDN is “a matter of survival,” said Ken Duell, an assistant vice president at AT&T, speaking at an OCP event last week. “We are retraining our work force to work in this new environment…with open rather than OEM equipment…[working] with partners [to] manage open-source projects,” he said.
CORD is an amalgam of multiple open source software projects.
In coming weeks, the TIP and CORD efforts may merge as service providers rush to define and deploy cheaper, more flexible networks. An executive from Deutsche Telekom said at the OCP event that the service provider hopes to have “a massive roll out” of SDN networks in 2018.
“We have seen a path to a production networks,” said Parulkar.
There’s plenty of work yet to do. The drive to SDN has spawned a dozen separate open-source projects that efforts like CORD are now trying to integrate into production-worthy software stacks.
For example, CORD includes ON.Lab’s SDN operating system and service provisioning framework (ONOS and XOS) as well as elements of OpenStack, an open-source cloud-computing stack. Parulkar points to a half dozen other open-source SDN efforts running in parallel including Open Network Linux, Switch OS in the works at Hewlett-Packard Enterprise and an effort launched last week by Microsoft’s Azure cloud computing service.
Meanwhile, service providers are far along in defining standards and open-source software for network functions virtualization, a set of projects closely related to SDN.
In this rapidly changing climate, chip makers are trying to draft their road maps. “They have an opportunity to make silicon simpler rather than add more features for OEM customers,” said Parulkar.
He points to Cavium’s XPliant and a chip based on the emerging P4 programming language in the works at startup Barefoot Networks, still in stealth mode, as leading the way in “a new trend to make more programmable [comms] silicon.”
The new concept is to create a pipeline of generic silicon blocks that quickly match packet headers and take actions on them. The chips should come with software tools that could let network operators easily change what makes for a match and what actions to take on them. In this way, the chips will be flexible as new SDN protocols emerge and evolve.
For its part, the OpenFlow protocol from Stanford that was at the heart of the early SDN work is evolving. At least three variants are currently in the works for areas such as transport and microwave networks.