HP Adds Pica8 OS to Open Networking Effort

The tech vendor adds to new Altoline switches to its open networking gear, which can now run both PicOS and Cumulus' Linux operating system.

data center

Hewlett-Packard earlier this year introduced a new line of open networking switches that enable customers to buy the HP hardware and run third-party operating systems. Now, the company is growing the number of switches in its Altoline switch family and expanding the OSes that can run on them.

HP officials on Aug. 24 announced that the company was doubling the number of open Altoline switches from two to four and adding Pica8's PicOS operating system to the software lineup that can run on the HP gear. The officials also said they intend to enable other network operating systems to run on the switches, including a tailored version of HP's own Comware 7 OS.

The tech vendor in February joined Dell and Juniper Networks in offering open branded switches that can run software from other vendors, a change from the traditional way of offering networking gear that runs only the vendor's own operating systems. HP is partnering with Accton Technology to build the software-independent switches.

Software-defined networking (SDN) and network-functions virtualization (NFV) are changing the way networks are designed and deployed, enabling organizations to create more programmable and agile infrastructures by removing the control plane and networking tasks from the underlying hardware and putting them into software, which can run on less expensive commodity systems.

The software-defined movement has enabled original-design manufactures (ODMs) to become larger players in the data center hardware space by making their affordable, unbranded white boxes more attractive to organizations. Analysts with IHS Infonetics said in a report last year that bare-metal switches are a key driver of SDN in the data center and could account for 31 percent of SDN-capable switch revenue by 2018.

Dell, HP and Juniper are pushing back against that trend in the networking space with what Gartner analysts call "brite boxes," switches that can run third-party software. The system makers can offer support and services that ODMs can't, and the brite boxes are priced between the more expensive traditional gear and more cost-effective ODM systems.

Dell began the effort last year with its Open Networking initiative. The company now offers a range of software from other vendors that can run on the Open Networking systems, including offerings from Cumulus Networks, Pluribus Networks, Midokura and Big Switch Networks.

The software-independent networking switches from both Dell and HP use the Open Network Install Environment (ONIE) to enable the third-party software to run on the hardware.

HP is rolling out two new open switches, the Altoline 5712, a 10 Gigabit Ethernet platform and the 40GbE 6712. Both are powered by Intel's Atom processors and are certified to run both Cumulus Linux and PicOS. Adding Pica8's operating system brings support for the OpenFlow SDN protocol and Open vSwitch technology to the disaggregated switches, according to HP officials.

The open switches bring a range of benefits to organizations, including a broader choice of operating systems, hardware and Linux tools, the ability to scale their cloud environments and a faster time to market with their services.

The disaggregated hardware and software also can lower a customer's total cost of ownership (TCO) by more than 64 percent by reducing acquisitions costs, HP officials said. They also can lessen operating expenses and make it more affordable to businesses to deploy Web-scale infrastructures, they said.