Cumulus Offers VX Virtual Appliance for Testing, Development

The new offering gives cloud operators and network engineers the tools they need to simulate open networks in their own environments.

Cumulus VX rollout

Cumulus Networks officials want to make it easier for organizations to leverage the company's Linux-based network operating system to learn about, test and develop the kinds of open networking infrastructures that are becoming increasingly popular.

The company, whose Cumulus Linux OS is used in some of Dell's Open Networking switches and which has been active in the Open Compute Project, on Aug. 4 rolled out Cumulus VX, a free virtual appliance that is aimed at giving cloud administrators and network administrators the tools to test open networking concepts in their own environments without having to spring for bare metal systems.

"Cumulus VX takes the network applications and tools that are in Cumulus Linux and delivers them in a virtual machine for use with many different hypervisors, leveraging the Linux kernel to provide the switching and routing," David Sinn, customers solutions engineer at Cumulus, wrote in a post on the company blog. "Now you can more easily learn about open networking, test out new network topologies, simulate changes with your routing protocols, and validate many automation tools and approaches all within your laptop or desktop."

Enterprises, carriers and service providers are migrating to open networking technologies—including software-defined networks (SDN) and network-functions virtualization (NFV)—to create more affordable, agile, scalable and programmable networks. Part of that push is using operating systems—like Cumulus Linux—and applications that can run on a range of systems from multiple vendors. It's a fast-growing segment of the industry, with research firm MarketsandMarkets estimating in a report this month that the SDN and NFV market will be worth $45.13 billion by 2020.

Cumulus VX will enable customers to not only increase their familiarity with open networking, but also reduce the evaluation time by testing Cumulus Linux or Cumulus RMP (Rack Management Platform)—an operating system for out-of-band scenarios—within their own environments and without having to invest in hardware.

Through the virtual appliance, users also can test and design rollouts to speed up the time to production and to create applications that can run in Cumulus Linux or Cumulus RMP environments.

Cumulus VX solves the problems of time and complexity that have dogged organizations in the past that wanted to create simulated networks for testing and development, according to Sinn.

"Most networking solutions are built around an abstract control-plane which only talks to the underlying hardware," he wrote. "And while most leverage Linux for their kernel, they don't leverage it directly, so the virtual solution often requires emulation of the hardware or translations to occur if it's to run in a virtual environment."

However, Cumulus Linux directly uses the Linux kernel, and Cumulus VX enables network engineers to simulate their networks in a virtual environment, Sinn wrote.

The virtual appliance can run in an array of virtual environments, including VMware Workstation, Fusion and ESXi, as well as with Virtualbox, KVM, GNS3 and Vagrant, officials said. It doesn't come with data-path acceleration, which makes it essentially unusable for production environments, but networking professionals can use protocols like BGP, MLAG and Cumulus' own OS-specific technologies like Prescriptive Topology Manager.

Cumulus VX is available now. Users can download it on the company Website, and technical support will come through Cumulus' Open Networking Community.

Along with Cumulus VX, the company also offers Cumulus Workbench, which enables organizations to schedule time on physical open networking switches in Cumulus' remote lab.