Dell EMC and Metaswitch will combine the former company’s open source, Linux-based OS10 Open Edition operating system with Metaswitch’s composable network protocols. Under terms of the deal, which the companies say advances software disaggregation, Dell EMC will resell Metaswitch’s IP routing and MPLS networking stacks on its ONIE-enabled platform.
ONIE, which stands for Open Network Install Environment, is an open source project that defines an open “install environment” for bare metal network switches. Cumulus Networks contributed the initiative to the Open Compute Project (OCP) in 2013.
Composable networking decouples control plane components and operating system software.
As companies move away from proprietary hardware and software to a disaggregated, open model — largely to accelerate software-defined networking (SDN) and improve data center efficiency and flexibility — “they are demanding greater and greater levels of disaggregation,” said Shriraj Gaglani, EVP of business and corporate development at Metaswitch.
“With composable networking protocols we are now making available these harden support protocols that we’ve been shipping for many years as Linux applications to end users,” Gaglani said.
Metaswitch’s routing and control plane protocols install and operate as binary applications on top of any open network operating system. They can run as stand-alone components or be combined with any third-party commercial or open source stack.
Metaswitch’s protocols target deployments that can range from Layer 2 intra-data center applications to Layer 3 fabrics, VPN interconnect, and carrier-grade MPLS infrastructures, said Simon Dredge, director of technical marketing at Metaswitch.
“It’s essentially the full decoupling of hardware, software, and the operating system — something the big four hyperscale data centers guys have been doing for a while now and something the medium- to high-end data center guys and networking guys have been talking about for the last year with initiatives like AT&T’s dNOS,” Dredge said. “But without the hyperscale resources, you need something like this.”
Metaswitch and AT&T’s dNOS
DNOS is AT&T’s disaggregated network operating system. Metaswitch’s routing and control plane protocols run as binary applications on top of that OS.
“We got a big name check with AT&T’s dNOS,” Dredge said.
AT&T this week also said it plans to install more than 60,000 open source, dNOS-powered white boxes across its network over the next several years to support of its aggressive 5G plans.
Is Metaswitch a part of the carrier’s white box plans?
“It’s something we could be a part of, but there’s no announcement on that,” Dredge said. “They are related in that of course that’s essentially what these composable network protocols are: they are protocol stacks for distributed network operating systems. And obviously we work closely with AT&T and we work closely with the dNOS community. It’s obviously something that our composable networking protocols could do.”
Combining Metaswitch’s protocol stacks with Dell EMC’s software and hardware saves companies time and money because it means they don’t have to test and integrate various open source efforts, according to the vendors.
The protocols are built on microservices methodologies, which enables routing, control, management, database, and abstraction-layer modules to be written, patched, and upgraded independently of the full software stack, Gaglani said. This simplifies the coding process and eliminates down time.
“Existing solutions that are not completely disaggregated need very long maintenance windows when they need to update software,” Gaglani explained. “When you have a completely disaggregated solution like the one we are putting together with Dell, you can swap out your protocol or add new protocols without having to touch or reboot the operating system. You also don’t have to over-provision your data center because you know every time you are going to upgrade or downgrade you have to take a bunch of capacity off line.”