Thanks to all who joined us for the Dell EMC Webinar: Open Networking 2.0 – Disaggregating the Software Stack. During the webinar Dell EMC discussed the architectural elements of the modern networking software stack and the role of open source technologies in it. After the webinar, we took questions from the audience. Read the full Open Networking 2.0 – Disaggregating the Software Stack Q&A below.
People have been talking about white box and disaggregation for a long time, what is holding it back?
Stefan Bokaie: The challenge with disaggregation has been feature richness, quality, and support. Without addressing all three aspects of this model, only a handful of companies, primarily large Webtech, have the capability to support their mission critical operation deploying very narrow custom build networking applications on a white box platform. At Dell EMC, we’ve taken the challenge head-on, and fully embraced this model. OS10 was architected to provide the framework to allow onboarding best of bread hardware platforms, and applications to address our customer’s needs. In order to foster the community, we recognized Open Sourcing of the base framework to be an absolute ingredient, in achieving the feature richness that is required in a rapid changing technological landscape. Dell EMC is present in 126 different countries, and therefore capable of the support required by smallest enterprise, to the largest Webtech, Financial, and Service Provider.
Shriraj Gaglani: Quality and performance of Network Protocol Stacks are critical for buy decisions and most early startups in the disaggregation space have struggled with getting their solutions accepted by the broad market. Also, there has been little in the way of real differentiation compared to existing Monolithic solutions, rendering the case for switchover fairly weak.
What are the main advantages of ‘best of breed’ approach in disaggregation?
SB: Deployment of disaggregated applications in a Networking platform could become very costly if Quality is not built in. Failure in a Networking platform is very different than compute such that a single failure can lead to isolation of hundreds of servers, and thousands of applications. Therefore, it is essential to have ‘best of breed’ both in terms of Hardware performance, and Software stack quality. Both Dell EMC, and MetaSwitch understand this fully.
SG: Combined together, solutions made of best of breed components remove the barrier to adoption in a comparison with proven monolithic solutions. Best of breed approaches tend to accrue continuous benefits to the consumer as each component is improved at a faster rate independent of the others, making the overall solution better, continuously.
Juggling supportability, robustness, feature-sets and more, buyers have historically had to look at a broad range of deployment scenarios and determine which device (hardware, OS and protocols) is generally best suited to meet all of them. With network functions disaggregation, network engineers can granularly select which components (including mixing and matching individual protocol stacks) best meets the requirement for each, very specific, application. You need also only select the specific feature sets you require, streamlining the switching platform and reducing costs.
How is this approach different from the existing disaggregated systems in the market?
SB: There is not a one size fit all approach. The uniqueness here is the Dell EMC’s leadership in contributing to Open Source a feature rich operating system framework that is critical and embedded Dell EMC Networking core platforms. The framework was designed to be flexible in addressing the needs of Small, Medium Business to DCs operated by large Webtech, Service Provider and Financials. Most importantly, Dell EMC’s ability in providing mission critical support.
SG: Existing disaggregated solutions for switches & routers today simply disaggregate HW from SW; Solutions with SW disaggregation are the next phase in the evolution of the network market.
How soon will this be commercially available? What is the maturity level and expected timing?
SB: Dell EMC is actively working with strategic partners to finalize launch date. Solutions including OPX Base and open source protocol stacks have been deployed in large mission critical installation for a while. OS10 has been launched since early 2017. We expect the maturity level of the commercial solution to be very high.
What are the barriers to entry to using this model?
Vision: One has to have a vision to lead in creation of the new paradigm in the networking, to foster innovation, and partnership. Protectionism often gets in the way of this vision. Disaggregating a monolithic platform is not easy. A platform has to be architected from day one with this vision. This is Open Networking 2.0 for Dell EMC.
Market Reach: There needs to be a leader with enough market reach to fully support such transition enabling innovation. The model is built into DNA of Dell EMC and as a global leader in providing IT infrastructure.
Quality: Without Quality, such deployment becomes only a science projects and not a viable solution.
Cost: Cost benefits can only be achieved once there is a viable business model for innovators to invest, and innovate. This is why having a company such as Dell EMC in the leadership role becomes vital in order to minimize the uncertainly.
How are you bringing this to market between Dell EMC and your partners?
SB: Open Networking 2.0 builds on our experience as leader in Open Networking platform provider during the past 3 years. In open sourcing the base Networking OS, we not only taken the burden of on-boarding Hardware platform for our partners, but also taken the fear of hardware lock from our customers. Seamless support is the key for a successful go to market. Customer experience is an area that Dell EMC will not compromise on, and therefore we have paid special attention to this area in selecting lead partners with similar philosophy, and track record.
What pricing model do you expect to follow?
SB: Pricing will be competitive.
Will Dell be looking at the access switch (i.e. facing employee workstations, etc) field as well? It is a significant size and the market is not well served with the very limited number of vendors offering HW that supports POE and NOS that supports QoS etc.
SB: The architecture is built to be deployed on an Access switch, as well as TOR and Aggregation. Dell EMC is working closely with a number of partners today specifically in this area.
Is signaling included in your N-Base?
SB: The Base software includes a rich software complex supporting not only CPU complex on-boarding, but also NPU forwarding applications:
The best way to understand the technical detail is to visit OpenSwitch for more information.