Microsoft submits new open-sourced networking components to Open Compute Project

Microsoft is proposing to contribute Software for Open Networking in the Cloud (SONiC) -- networking components for building datacenter devices like switches -- to the Open Compute Project.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Microsoft is submitting more technologies for consideration by the Open Compute Project, the datacenter foundation originally started by Facebook in 2011.

On March 9, at the Open Compute Project U.S. Summit, Microsoft announced it is proposing to contribute Software for Open Networking in the Cloud, or SONiC.

Microsoft's explanation of what this is:

"SONiC is a collection of software networking components required to build network devices like switches. Together with SAI (Switch Abstraction Interface -- which Microsoft contributed last year), SONiC will enable cloud operators to take advantage of hardware innovation, while giving them a framework to build upon open source code for applications on the network switch. We believe it's the final piece of the puzzle in delivering a fully open sourced switch platform that can share the same software stack across hardware from multiple switch vendors."

Microsoft officials said SONiC is being joined by contributions from Arista, Broadcom, Dell and Mellanox.

Microsoft is contributing SONiC as an open-source project to the community on its GitHub repository under an open source license. It runs on Debian, but theoretically, any Linux distribution can be supported, according to the FAQ page.

Microsoft joined the Open Compute Project (OCP) in 2014, and is a founding member of and contributor to the organization's SAI project. The OCP publishes open hardware designs intended to be used to build datacentres relatively cheaply.

When Microsoft joined OCP, company officials said Microsoft would be contributing to the project its Microsoft cloud server specification -- a 12U shared server chassis capable of housing 24 1U servers -- as well as releasing its Chassis Manager under the open-source Apache licence

The OCP has already released specifications for motherboards, chipsets, cabling, and common sockets, connectors and open networking and switches.

Microsoft's Azure Cloud Switch (ACS)is built around the foundation's SAI, which is the standards C application programming interface for programming ASICs. It's software for running network devices like switches.

The Open Compute Project accepted the SAI specification -- contributed by Microsoft and other contributors including Mellanox, Dell, Broadcom, Cavium, Barefoot, and Metaswitch -- in July 2015. ACS is for internal use only.

In related news, Google announced today, March 9, that it is joining the OCP, too.

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