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Dell celebrates disaggregation's first anniversary

Open Networking initiative began with Cumulus Linux on Dell switches

Dell is celebrating the first anniversary of its Open Networking initiative, an effort to offer customers a choice of operating systems and applications on standard, merchant silicon-based hardware.

Dell was one of, if not the first major vendor to disaggregate switching – separating the interdependencies of hardware and software so customers, in this case, can run a variety of operating systems on Dell switches. Juniper followed suit with an Open Compute Platform-based switch that can run its Junos operating system, or another that’s ported to the OCP-based hardware.

HP is also expected to soon announce that its merchant silicon-based hardware is operating system independent.

The Dell Juniper and HP strategies are endorsed by Gartner, which calls the trend “brite box,” or branded white box.

For now, Dell supports Cumulus Networks Linux and Big Switch Networks’ Switch Light, Cloud Fabric and Big Tap monitoring fabric on its S6000 and S4810 switches. Other partners in the Dell program include VMware and Midokura, which recently decided to open source its MidoNet network virtualization platform.

Dell offers Midokura’s Enterprise MidoNet software on its switches for deployment of network virtualization overlays for OpenStack clouds. VMware’s NSX network virtualization platform runs on Dell switches with Cumulus Linux.

In the year since Open Networking launched, Dell claims to have 30+ deployments across the globe in verticals such as cloud, financial, telco and mid-market. It also has 10 pilot deployments underway.

Dell has a full Open Networking plate for 2015 as well. The company is evaluating offering its own OCP-based switch, says Tom Burns, vice president and general manager of Dell Networking.

Dell has an announcement planned for March around OCP but Burns did not say if that announcement included a switch. Partner Cumulus is expected to announce that one of its supported hardware platforms -- EdgeCore/Accton’s AS5712-54X – is OCP approved around that time so Dell might endorse that, or actually offer it under the Dell brand.

Dell is also looking to expand its roster of operating system/SDN controller partners for its hardware. The OpenDaylight Project’s controller could be considered a software option for the disaggregated hardware/software model – Dell recently upped its investment and participation in that consortium; HP is a highest-tier participant too.

Dell will also be adding 10/40G switches to its Open Networking lineup this year, and 100G later in 2015, Burns said. The company is also looking at 25G Ethernet capabilities towards the second half of the year, he said.

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