Cumulus Networks recently announced the availability of its Cumulus Linux Network Command Line Utility (NCLU) to help network engineers access the benefits of Linux, using software similar to Command Line Interface (CLI) that they’re accustomed to.
This all may seem counterintuitive to Cumulus’ stated goal of making switches behave more like servers. By creating its NCLU, it seems to be adjusting its own operating system to behave more like a Cisco switch.
But the company says it’s just helping network operators to use the same Linux tools for switching and routing that data centers use. It says NCLU is an evolved take on the traditional CLI many network operators are comfortable using.
JR Rivers, CTO and co-founder of Cumulus Networks, says one of the reasons that Linux can move so quickly is because there are separate sets of people working on the stack in parallel. However, one downside is an inconsistent base-level user interface (UI) for each subsystem.
“We did not replace any of the native Linux tools with NCLU, but rather, we layered NCLU on top of them to provide both a consistency as well as a better UI for those interested in network operations,” says Rivers. “To that end, we retain both the Linux networking model as well as compatibility with the Linux user tools. And we still firmly believe in the vision of making switches behave like servers.”
NCLU grants users one central point from which they can manually drive the system, giving them the ability to run the network in a manner that is familiar to network engineers. The interface offers embedded help, configuration suggestions, and examples that help users translate well-known network commands. It makes Cumulus Linux now accessible to a broader community of network operators, many of whom are familiar with Cisco’s CLI.
About That CLI…
“When we started the NCLU project, we did not ask ourselves ‘How do you make a Cisco CLI?’” says Rivers. “But rather, we asked ourselves ‘What are the characteristics of great command line user interfaces?’”
Cumulus copied neither keywords nor Cisco user-interface behaviors. “We greatly enhanced the state of the art by providing context-sensitive help, building in usage examples, and providing deployment-specific prompting,” he says.
NCLU is targeted for general availability in early December through the upcoming 3.2 release of the Cumulus Linux operating system.