Dell is challenging Cisco Systems, Juniper Networks, Hewlett-Packard and other established networking vendors by offering networking gear that will run Cumulus Networks' Linux-based operating system.
The newly private tech vendor is taking a run at cloud providers and Web-based enterprises with a networking model that offers hardware that runs on standard processors and an open OS, offering an alternative to the more traditional package of integrated and proprietary hardware and software solutions from competitors.
Dell on Jan. 28 announced the reseller agreement with Cumulus, which offers a Linux OS designed for bare-metal networking devices.
"This allows us to offer a solution to a set of customers that have been vendor-locked with their black boxes," Arpit Joshipura, vice president of Dell Networking, told eWEEK.
These organizations—such as cloud providers like Amazon Web Services or large Web 2.0 businesses like Google and Facebook—don't want to go the route where they're relying on original design manufacturers (ODMS), Joshipura said. However, at the same time, they are looking for alternatives to the more expensive, complex and proprietary offerings from the likes of Cisco and Juniper, he said.
In addition, with the use of Cumulus' Linux OS, companies can more easily integrate the networking gear into their environments and standardize on the operating system, which can run in a range of equipment from other vendors.
Dell will offer Cumulus Linux in its S6000 and S4810 top-of-rack Ethernet networking switches starting this quarter. Dell already offers the FTOS operating system on those systems. Dell inherited FTOS when it bought Force10 Networks in 2011, part of a larger acquisition strategy over the last several years by Dell as it has built up its enterprise networking, storage, security and software capabilities.
Dell, which last fall went private when founder and CEO Michael Dell and a financial backer bought it for $25 billion, is looking to become less of a PC vendor and more of an enterprise IT solutions and services provider, and networking is a key part of that effort.
For Cumulus, which came out with its Linux networking OS last year, the Dell deal offers the chance to partner with a top-tier hardware maker and rapidly expand its reach in the data center. The operating system currently can be found on switches from Quanta, Celestica and Accton.
At the same time, the partnership will give more credibility to the idea of a Linux OS on standard hardware being a strong alternative to the more expensive integrated offerings from Cisco and others. Operational efficiencies and lower costs are key concerns for cloud providers, which are finding that the traditional way of running networks is not cheap, J.R. Rivers, Cumulus' founder and CEO, told eWEEK.
With Dell, "we are offering … infrastructure for the modern data center," Rivers said.
In a post on the Cumulus blog site this month, he said the idea of larger, expensive and proprietary networking equipment is breaking down at a time when demand for more transparency, freedom of choice and lower pricing are increasing.
"We view the natural state of the networking supply chain to be one by which customers are able to purchase their networking hardware as 'close to the source' as they'd like, starting at original manufacturers all the way through well-known enterprise IT providers," Rivers wrote. "Regardless of the hardware source, customers are able to deploy the networking software of their choice (CumulusLinux for instance :-). There are zero technical barriers to this model, and we do it around compute every day. This allows customers to make a safe capital investment in infrastructure without being locked into any one vendor; suppliers get to earn their spot every cycle."