Cumulus Networks updates its network-centric Linux distribution

Company says its Linux is to networking what Red Hat is to servers.

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The Linux distribution ecosystem is pretty set, with Red Hat and Canonical in the leadership positions, followed closely by SuSe and home brews from the likes of IBM and other major vendors. Even Microsoft has its own distro for Azure users.

And then there is Cumulus Networks, which specializes in networking software. It just released Cumulus Linux 4.0 and NetQ 2.4, its cloud network deployment and management console. With this release, Cumulus is claiming its Linux is its most stable and reliable software stack yet and NetQ is the most comprehensive end-to-end network automation product.

Roopa Prabhu, chief Linux architect at Cumulus, said that just as Red Hat Enterprise Linux is designed for servers, Cumulus Linux is specifically designed for networking.

"Unlike RHEL, Ubuntu or Suse, Cumulus Linux is specially designed for the unique needs of a network device, like a data-center switch," she said in an email to me. "Cumulus Linux comes packaged with drivers for data-center switch hardware, the latest and greatest in Linux-kernel networking, a rich networking protocol stack with Free Range Routing (FRR), multi-homing protocol software, networking tools and Linux defaults optimized for networking.”

“RHEL for example, complements Cumulus Linux in the data center, rather than compete with it, allowing similar management and orchestration tools across compute and network devices," she added.

By being native Linux, Cumulus says it provides support for all the tooling and applications of the Linux ecosystem while providing advanced networking features and support, including kernel additions for VRF, VxLAN or the upstreamed ifupdown2 network-interface manager. 

Cumulus Linux 4.0 includes:

  • Support for 134 hardware platforms across 14 ASICs.
  • Support for Mellanox’s Spectrum-2 chipset for faster performance, Broadcom’s Qumran chipset for deep buffering at the top of rack, Facebook’s Minipack – an open, modular chassis with a single 12.8TB chip, and additional campus networking platforms with Dell.
  • Migration to the latest and most advanced Linux kernel for greater route scale, the latest security updates, and thousands of contributions from the broader Linux community.
  • Support for SwitchDev, an open source in-kernel abstraction model, providing a standardized way to program switch ASICs and speed development time.
  • Enhancements to its EVPN implementation (EVPN-PIM and EVPN multi-homing) for Layer 2/Layer3 connectivity.
  • Comprehensive end-to-end automation for CI/CD workflows including simulation, validation, troubleshooting and NetDevOps practices such as Infrastructure-as-Code (IaC).
  • The ability to build a single fabric across data center and campus environments enabling a common operational model.
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