There's a funny dichotomy between the container ecosystem and the software-defined networking (SDN) one. In the container space, seemingly every vendor is creating their own lightweight operating system that is designed to work well in a containerized infrastructure. Red Hat has one, Canonical does too, Microsoft is coming to the party, CoreOS was an early entrant... and so on.
In the SDN space, however, it seems that all the competitive vendors are busy looking elsewhere to compete and are happy to agree on the best approach to an SDN-specific operating system. And that is a situation that Cumulus Networks has been quick to leverage.
Cumulus Networks is a young startup with some pretty high-brow credentials. The company is funded by Andreessen Horowitz, Battery Ventures, Sequoia Capital, Peter Wagner, and four of the original VMware founders. Its founding team is a who's who from the networking world, and hence this is one company that has the feeling that nothing it does can be wrong. Perhaps that is why so many large vendors seem in awe of the company. Previously, the company has inked deals with Broadcom, Dell, HP, Quanta, Super Micro, and others. Today, on the eve of VMware's annual VMworld conference, they are backing that up by announcing a collaboration with the uber-virtualization vendor to power hyper-converged software defined data center offerings based on VMware's EVO solution.
What this deal means, in practice, is that customers can utilize Cumulus Linux integrated with the hardware management system component of EVO to provide control at the networking layer. These hyper-converged systems will be available on pre-approved hardware platforms from the likes of Dell and Quanta.
It's a deal that makes sense. VMware has to help its customers move beyond simple server virtualization and instead deliver virtualization across the entire data center - a very important component of that is at the networking layer, where black-box solutions (closed, proprietary, and aggregated) have traditionally been the only option.
"We share VMware's vision of the software-defined data center -- that highly automated software on bare-metal infrastructure is the modern model to reduce overall data center complexity and cost," said JR Rivers, CEO and co-founder of Cumulus Networks. "The work Dell and QCT are doing within the VMware EVO SDDC program are great examples of how the disaggregation of networking hardware and software creates greater value for customers as they embrace modern models of IT."
Have no doubt, Cumulus is an indicator of the massive changes occurring in the networking world, and gives a sense of some of the turbulence being navigated by traditional networking vendors such as Cisco and Juniper. This deal is another string in Cumulus' bow, and it will give them yet more confidence as they grow and mature.
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