Pica8, Big Switch Look to Drive SDN on Bare-Metal Switches

In a busy week for SDN vendors, Cyan adds support for Cisco and Juniper switches, while Midokura partners with Penguin Computing.


Pica8 kicked off a busy week in the increasingly competitive software-defined networking space, making moves that officials say will help fuel the adoption of Linux-based OSes on bare-metal switches.

The company announced Oct. 6 that it was embracing the Open Network Install Environment (ONIE), which enables businesses to more easily load a network OS on bare-metal switches. ONIE gives customers the ability to consider a wider range of standard OSes and switches from original design manufacturers (ODMs) when building out their infrastructure.

ONIE has been accepted by the Open Compute Project, and enables businesses to run a range of operating systems—such as Pica8's PicOS or Cumulus Networks' operating system—on the same switch hardware. Vendors like Pica8 and Cumulus Networks are championing the use of standards-based operating systems running on low-cost bare-metal switches as an alternative in the software-defined network (SDN) space to more expensive and complex hardware from the likes of Cisco Systems and Juniper Networks.

"Our goal is to enable choice in selecting network hardware and software, and PicOS supports bare metal switches from major original device manufacturers," Steve Garrison, vice president of marketing at Pica8, said in a statement. "By supporting ONIE, we make it easier than ever for our customers to integrate PicOS onto the bare metal switches of their choice."

Pica8 in the past has offered PicOS as a preloaded option on bare-metal switches from ODM partners. By offering developers a free version of the operating system, company officials said they are creating another avenue for driving adoption of the OS on a wide range of commodity networking hardware. The free trial version of PicOS also enables organizations to investigate SDN before jumping right in.

"By offering a free-trial download of PicOS, we want to demonstrate that high-performance network hardware and software can be bought separately, just as the server industry has successfully shown through its supply chain model for many years," Olivier Vautrin, head of product line management for Pica8, said in a statement.

Pica8 officials said getting PicOS up and running is made easy by using the ONIE boot loader and Zero-Touch Provisioning tools. Developers can get the free version of PicOS online.

The announcements came less than a week after Pica8 announced a $12.5 million round of financing, bringing the total raised by the company to more than $20 million.

For their part, officials with Cyan announced Oct. 8 that it is adding support for particular networking switches from Cisco and Juniper to its carrier-grade Blue Planet SDN and network-functions virtualization (NFV) platform.

Network operator environments tend to be multivendor, and the Blue Planet platform is designed to enable customers to automatically provision and manage networking gear from disparate companies. Bringing Cisco and Juniper into the fold broadens the number of environments that Cyan's Blue Planet platform can operate in.

"Customers are looking for us to integrate and orchestrate Cisco and Juniper based on their perspective that the element management systems and SDN tools available today for these devices are not capable of providing the multi-vendor service automation, management, and abstraction that Blue Planet delivers," Cyan President Michael Hatfield said in a statement. "This is required for the network transformation our customers are rapidly embracing."

The support for the Cisco and Juniper gear is available for demonstrations and customer trials now, but won't appear commercially until the next version of the Blue Planet software due in the fourth quarter.