Startups Apstra, SnapRoute Look to Ease Network Challenges
Apstra—whose investors include Arista Networks founder David Cheriton, who also invested in Google and VMware—put AOS into field trials in August 2015. The operating system will be generally available this summer. For its part, SnapRoute was founded by ex-Apple employees who spent several years working on an internal project as part of the device maker's 2011 data center expansion, including the development of a provisioning tool for upgrading the software on thousands of switches without having to take the network down. Forrester wrote that despite that trend toward open-source software, end users are still overly dependent on vendor-supplied software to run and monitor their networking systems. Any new features need to come from the OEMs, which can take months before upgrading the software. When security issues crop up, "you can make the necessary angry phone calls and pray the fix arrives quickly," Forrester wrote. "Hopefully it does before you are fired for a revenue-sucking, brand-killing network outage." What they need is true open-source software for networks, similar to what Linux did for servers, many of which now run open-source databases. SnapRoute has developed FlexSwitch, open-source software that officials said businesses can use to build open network environments. The software will be used as an option for the OpenSwitch operating system, and SnapRoute also is contributing the FlexSwitch software to the Facebook-led Open Compute Project (OCP) so it can be used in white-box gear. Both moves will help the company build an ecosystem around its software, he wrote.
Forrester noted that SnapRoute isn't the first company to push open-source software on network devices. Dell and Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) now have switches that can run third-party network software from the likes of Cumulus Networks, Big Switch Networks, Midokura and Pica8.