SONiC sounds almost exactly like a network operating system that Microsoft announced in September 2015 — the Azure Cloud Switch (ACS). Apparently, Microsoft made the decision to open source most of the software. (ACS adds “internal cloud management applications,” the SONiC FAQ notes.)
“At Microsoft, we believe there are many excellent switch hardware platforms available on the market,” writes Kamala Subramaniam, principal architect of Microsoft Azure Networking, in a blog post today, using almost the same language from the Azure Cloud Switch announcement. “However, it is challenging to integrate the different software running on each different type of switch into a cloud-wide network management platform.”
SONiC allows cloud operators to share the same software stack across multiple switch vendors’ hardware. An important aspect of SONiC is that it can run on various switching platforms via the Switch Abstraction Interface (SAI) specification, which Microsoft announced at last year’s OCP Summit and which was accepted by OCP in July 2015.
According to Microsoft, SONiC is not just prototyped software but is already deployed.
“We believe it’s the final piece of the puzzle in delivering a fully open sourced switch platform that can share the same software stack across hardware from multiple switch vendors,” writes Mark Russinovich, CTO of Microsoft Azure, in a separate corporate blog posting.
“SONiC allows us to exploit new hardware faster and enables us to ride the tide of ASIC innovation while simultaneously being able to operate on multiple platforms,” writes Subramaniam.
In the long run, the news could be another nail in the coffin for proprietary switch hardware. White-box switch manufacturers can improve their boxes with the latest chip technology, and SONiC can unify management of the cloud-wide network.
A blog posting written by Adnan Bhutta, Dell’s director of global strategy, says, “SONiC is envisioned to be used in Microsoft Azure, and we expect to see more cloud providers adopt SONiC into their data centers.”