Facebook Open Compute Project picks switch specs

Broadcom, Intel, Cumulus and Mellanox tapped for their hardware, software designs

Open Compute Project

The Open Compute Project this week announced that it is considering four contributions for  development of an open, operating system-agnostic data center switch it announced six months ago.

Open Compute is an effort initiated by Facebook two years ago to commoditize and wring cost out of hardware purchases for data center and cloud computing. It announced plans back in May to spec out an open source switch to complement its vendor-agnostic data center software, server and storage designs.

The switch would serve as a cost-effective top-of-rack alternative to those from traditional manufacturers, such as Cisco, Arista Networks, Brocade, Dell, Extreme Networks, HP and Juniper. Such an alternative would foster faster hardware innovation, facilitate software-defined networks (SDN), and offer more choice to consumers.

[CISCO: Facebook Open Compute Project has “weaknesses”]

Out of 30 potential contributions, OCP is highlighting four for consideration that are likely to be accepted soon, states Frank Frankovsky, chairman and president of the Open Compute Project Foundation, in this blog post.

Broadcom developed what the company calls an Open Network Switch specification addressing leaf and spine switch configurations and feature requirements. The specification is based on the company’s widely deployed and supported Trident switch architecture, which includes networking operating systems and applications from Broadcom partners.

The specification is based on Broadcom’s latest Trident II design, which  is designed to support up to 32 40G Ethernet ports and 100+ 10G ports.

Linux network operating system start-up Cumulus Networks proposed its Open Network Install Environment (ONIE) software. ONIE is a network boot loader to install software on bare metal Ethernet network switches.

ONIE defines a runtime install environment that supports multiple network operating system vendors, giving customers more choice over their networking hardware and software, Cumulus says. ONIE is supported on a range of existing original design manufacturer (ODM) switches.

Intel has also submitted a specification for an open switch, specifically a bare metal top-of-rack device supporting 48x4 10/40Gbps ports with all necessary subsystems for switching, control CPU, peripherals, external interfaces, power, cooling, and mechanical enclosure. Intel says platforms based on this spec enable more choice, flexibility and a better cost structure for customers who choose to implement a software defined approach for networking and switching.

The Intel spec is also supported by an ecosystem of partners supplying production level systems.

A third open switch specification was submitted by Mellanox. Its SwitchX-2 x86-based top-of-rack specification supports 48 SFP+ ports and 12 QSFP ports, enabling non-blocking connectivity within a server rack or 60 10Gbps server ports when using QSFP+ to SFP+ breakout cables.

The Mellanox switch will be the first to enable Cumulus’ ONIE over x86, and the company says it expects it to improve power consumption, latency and density in data center designs.


Separately, the OpenDaylight Project, a Cisco and IBM driven consortium to define an open source SDN controller and framework, named an executive director this week. Nicolas Jacques has been tapped from VMware to oversee the project.

Jacques will oversee and provide guidance for all aspects of the OpenDaylight SDN and Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) project, from governance and technology, to community and marketing. Jacques will report to the OpenDaylight board of directors.

While at VMware, Jacques developed and marketed the company’s software-defined data center vision and strategy, including VMware’s vCloud suite. Jacques also founded and launched VMware's first cloud computing initiative in 2007.

Prior to VMware, Jacques was a consultant with Bain & Company. He received his MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business with High Honors and a BS from Georgetown University.

OpenDaylight plans to introduce its “Hydrogen” release next month.

Jim Duffy has been covering technology for over 27 years, 22 at Network World. He also writes The Cisco Connection blog (http://www.networkworld.com/community/blog/1860) and can be reached on Twitter @Jim_Duffy (https://twitter.com/Jim_Duffy).

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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