Big Switch, Facebook to Demonstrate Open Switch Software

The Open Network Linux OS, aimed at OCP members, comes days after HP and partners announced their own open-source network OS, OpenSwitch.

network OS

Big Switch Networks, Facebook and NTT are unveiling a Linux-based network operating system that can be used to bring together the disparate networking components that have been developed within the Facebook-led Open Compute Project.

The three companies will demonstrate Open Network Linux (ONL) Oct. 9 at the Open Compute Project's (OCP) Engineering Workshop in Boston.

Big Switch has been working with the OCP since the company was launched, and its commercial products have come from the work the vendor has done within the community, according to co-founder Kyle Forster. Big Switch contributed Open Network Linux to the OCP, and now more than 15 open switch hardware platforms—including Facebook's Wedge switch and another product from Accton Technologies—support the operating system.

Over the past several years, a range of disparate open-source networking components have been contributed to the OCP, but there have remained challenges in such areas as integration and development.

"It was our observation that the OCP networking stack was a diverse set of components, but the lack of a unified distribution led to fragmented development efforts across the community," Forster said in an email to eWEEK. "ONL isn't a revenue-driven networking vendor product—it is free to download, after all—but rather, it is intended as a focal point for collaboration across the OCP/hyperscale community and the bare-metal/open-switching supply chain."

Network virtualization and open networking efforts are changing the way network infrastructures can be built and managed, and are giving hyperscale organizations and enterprises an alternative to traditional solutions in which all the network hardware and software comes from a single vendor. The push for open hardware and software in the data center has come, in part, from hyperscale players like Facebook and Google, which in their drive for greater performance and power efficiency have developed their own technologies to run in their massive facilities.

Facebook launched the OCP four years ago with the idea of driving open-source designs for everything from servers and storage appliances to networking gear and power supplies. Facebook last year launched its open-source Wedge switch, and earlier this year introduced the six-pack networking module. Overall, the social networking company has saved more than $2 billion in data center costs by leveraging open technologies.

Networking has been a focus in the OCP for a couple of years, and the Open Network Linux OS is designed to be a way of bringing the various components with the group together. It will help drive developer and user interest in the open-source networking technologies, and reduce the amount of time they need to get OCP networking up and running, according to officials with Big Switch, Facebook and NTT.

A key innovation in Open Network Linux are pluggable forwarding agents, which establishes the switch's relationship to the rest of the network. The operating system gives developers in the hyperscale community a common networking base and platform code. However, organizations can decide which forwarding agents they want to use on top of the platform code, or they can design their own forwarding agents based on their needs.

"I'm proud that this architecture strikes the right balance of shared code and pluggable agents," Big Switch CTO Rob Sherwood, who helped create Open Network Linux, said in a statement. "We are unifying disparate efforts in the hyperscale networking development community without locking anyone into any specific architecture."

The demonstration this week will be run on a Wedge switch using forwarding agents: Facebook Open Switch System (FBOSS), L3 Routing from NTT and OpenFlow from Big Switch.