Microsoft developed the open source Software for Open Networking in the Cloud (SONiC) along with Arista, Broadcom, Dell, and Mellanox, before contributing it to OCP in 2016. SONiC uses the Linux kernel, and it allows cloud operators to share the same software stack across multiple switch vendors’ hardware. It can also run on various switching platforms via the Switch Abstraction Interface (SAI) specification, which Microsoft open sourced to OCP in 2015.
Today, 68 hardware platforms currently support SONiC, said David A. Maltz, who leads Microsoft Azure’s Physical Network team, during a keynote at last week’s OCP Global Summit. Looking forward, Microsoft plans to run all of its data centers on SONiC and extend it to support its management network, WAN, and even gaming, Maltz added. “We’ve got to go all in on SONiC,” he said.
Also during his keynote: a video detailed how Alibaba built a customized network operating system using SONiC as the foundation for its cloud data centers. Dell EMC’s Tom Burns, vice president and general manager of networking, said his company recently started supporting SONiC on Dell EMC infrastructure for all customers beyond just Microsoft customers. “SONiC enables new capabilities around open networking…and gives our customers more flexibility,” he said in a video.
And later that day Facebook said its two new open source data center switches, Minipack and a second one co-developed with Arista, both support SONiC.
More SONiC Support
Juniper, which has long been a proponent of open source and disaggregation, on Friday announced native integration of its platforms with SONiC. “At Juniper Networks, we recognize how important open programmability is to our customers, already evidenced in our support of OpenConfig, Open/R and P4,” said Manoj Leelanivas, chief product officer at Juniper Networks in a statement. Native SONiC integration continues this support, he added.
During the summit, Big Switch Networks demonstrated an open source network operating system (NOS) stack that combines SONiC with Big Switch’s Open Network Linux (ONL).
“We had approximately 10 network operating systems leveraging ONL,” said Prashant Gandhi, VP and chief product officer at Big Switch. This included both Facebook’s and Google’s, “but the one that was missing was SONiC. “
The NOS stack uses ONL as its base platform OS, including ONLP platform APIs; SONiC as its higher-layer NOS stack, including forwarding agent/Switch Abstraction Interface (SAI) management, telemetry and programmable API layers; and Free Range Routing (FRR) integrated through SONiC for the level 3 control plane functionality. The demonstration highlighted automation, zero-touch provisioning, and visibility leveraging a DevOps-centric Ansible workflow and SDN-centric controller workflows.
It targets service providers, and tier-two software-as-a-service (SaaS) and cloud providers, Gandhi said. “These folks have data centers similar to hyperscalers,” he said. “They have software teams, albeit smaller software teams, and they care about building value on top of a NOS. They’ve done that with Linux all day long on the compute-side and their interest is how do we get that similar support in networking.”
Intent-Based Networking + SONiC
Apstra also jumped on the SONiC train at OCP Global Summit, showcasing its intent-based data center automation technology with support for SONiC as part of a multi-vendor system. This includes full life cycle data center automation and root cause identification capabilities.
“SONiC is growing at a very fast rate with ASIC vendors like Mellanox and Broadcom, and switch vendors including Arista and Juniper, and companies such as ourselves, as well as the hyperscalers here [in the U.S.] and in China,” said Apstra CEO Mansour Karam during an interview at the OCP event. “It’s good to have this consolidation in the marketplace.”
This disaggregated, open networking approach gives customers more choice, but with this choice comes greater complexity and risk. That’s where Apstra fits in, Karam added. Its technology is vendor agnostic, it adds automation and analytics on top of SONiC for enterprise data center deployments, and it provides 24-7 customer support, “so we are the throat to choke,” Karam said. “Apstra is saying we’re going to provide a software that provides you a one-stop-shop for operating and automating your infrastructure.”