OpenSwitch is undergoing a reboot, as the open source switching-software project, which originated at Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), appears poised to use code submitted by SnapRoute and by the Dell EMC portion of Dell.
HPE remains a member of OpenSwitch, but today’s announcement signals a new direction for the project. Dell has contributed a base operating system, while SnapRoute is providing routing and switching stacks.
“Partly, what we’re seeing here is a refresh of the core architecture,” says Jeff Baher, Dell’s senior director of product marketing.
“It’s a similar sort of community and engagement as before, but the players are shifting a little, as with any open source project,” says Glenn Sullivan, SnapRoute’s director of customer experience.
HPE founded OpenSwitch but handed off the project to the Linux Foundation in June. At the time, HPE said the move was a way to show the community that this wouldn’t be an effort controlled by one vendor.
It’s also similar to the more established Open vSwitch (OVS) project, which is likewise being overseen by the Linux Foundation. One significant difference between the two is that OVS is, by definition, a virtual switch, useful for technologies such as network virtualization. OpenSwitch is aimed at hardware-based switches, making it a complement to the hardware-minded Open Compute Project (OCP).
Dell’s OS, SnapRoute’s Stacks
Dell is contributing the base version of OS10, the switch operating system that it announced in January. OS10 includes an unmodified Linux kernel and can be a vehicle for loading applications directly onto a switch; it’s also at the heart of Software for Open Networking in the Cloud (SONiC), which Microsoft submitted to OCP.
SnapRoute’s founders had spent a few years working on in-house technologies, including code written from scratch for standard networking protocols, to maintain Apple’s rapidly expanding cloud. They were frustrated at being unable to share that work with the industry, CEO Jason Forrester writes on the company’s blog, and thus founded SnapRoute in 2015.
The startup’s networking stacks are available under open source licensing terms, and some of its software has been submitted to OCP. To make a business of it, SnapRoute offers commercial versions of the code and also provides support.
One way to separate the Dell and SnapRoute contributions is to think of Dell as the hardware-geek side and SnapRoute as the control-plane side. “We’re not super interested in all the nitty-gritty board stuff,” Sullivan says. “We basically offer the world a very modern alternative to Quagga,” the well known open source routing stack.
OpenSwitch’s starting point had been a combination of Quagga, OVS, and other pieces, Sullivan says. But SnapRoute feels it can provide an alternative that will be more quickly suitable for production deployments.