Dell buys into the open-source network

Dell doesn't wants to be just your data center server provider. In partnership with Cumulus Networks, they want to be your open-source network services provider as well.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

Dell's been involved in serious networking for years, but never quite like this. The Austin, TX PC and server giant is partnering up with Cumulus Networks to deliver Linux-based, bare-metal networking devices..

Cumulus Network Model
Here's an overview of the Cumulus Linux network model.

Cumulus Networks has its own Linux distribution, Cumulus Linux. This Linux is designed to run on top of industry-standard networking hardware. Above it. you can run both Linux- and third-party data center-ready networking applications. It supports port densities ranging from 48x1Gbps (Gigabit per second) ports to wire-rate 32x40Gbps ports on a wide variety of networking switches. Cumulus is also working with Facebook on its Open Compute network switches.

According to Dell, their "vision of the new data center networking model is an open ecosystem where customers can choose among various industry-standard networking gear, network applications and network operating systems to meet their business needs." If that sounds familiar, it should. It comes straight from the Open Compute playbook.

Dell also welcomes the rise of open-source based, software-defined networking (SDN). Indeed, Dell is a member of the Linux Foundation's OpenDaylight SDN project. Thus, Dell's partnership with Cumulus is just a natural next step in its embrace of the open-source network.

More such moves will be coming. Dell stated that its reseller agreement with Cumulus is only the first such partnership "in an ecosystem to fill a critical gap in realizing the true promise of the software-defined data center." Specifically, Dell will begin offering Cumulus Linux network OS as an option for its Dell Networking S6000 and S4810 top-of-rack switches.

"This is a market development that we suspected might happen," said Brad Casemore, IDC's research director of Datacenter Networks in a statement. "Cloud-service providers and large-enterprise customers are thoroughly evaluating alternatives to their traditional datacenter network infrastructure. Dell has chosen to position itself as a strong proponent of disaggregation of network hardware and software, while Cumulus Networks has struck a partnership with a major vendor to gain favorable exposure in more customer accounts. This announcement is emblematic of an eventful period in datacenter networking, and such alliances will become increasingly important as developments such as network disaggregation reconfigure industry ecosystems."

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