[Beowulf] Progress in opening up the network

Eugen Leitl eugen at leitl.org
Tue Nov 12 02:25:49 PST 2013


Progress in opening up the network

Monday, November 11, 2013 · Posted by Frank Frankovsky, chairman and
president of the Open Compute Project Foundation at 11:20 AM

Just six months ago, we announced our intention to expand the charter of the
Open Compute Project to include networking hardware.

At the time, it was our hope that we could build on the momentum we'd
established in opening up server, storage, and datacenter designs and
collaborate with the broader community on the development of an open,
OS-agnostic top-of-rack switch. Such a switch, we believed, would enable a
faster pace of innovation in the development of networking hardware; help
software-defined networking continue to evolve and flourish; and ultimately
provide consumers of these technologies with the freedom they need to build
infrastructures that are flexible, scalable, and efficient across the entire

Our progress so far has exceeded even our lofty expectations -- hundreds of
people are actively collaborating on the development of more than 30
potential contributions, covering most of the network hardware stack and even
some of the network software stack.

We'd like to highlight four contributions in particular, all of them
currently being considered by the OCP Incubation Committee and likely to be
accepted soon.

Broadcom was the first to develop a full specification for and implementation
of an open switch. Here's how they describe it:

"Broadcom has developed an Open Network Switch specification, addressing
popular leaf and spine switch configurations and feature requirements, in
compliance with the charter defined by the OCP networking initiative. The
specification delivers the foundation for efficient, high performance, and
flexible network architectures, complementing the goals of the OCP networking
initiatives. Our network switch specification is based on the widely deployed
Trident switch architecture, which supports a wide ecosystem of networking
operating systems and applications. The specification utilizes the latest in
the Trident family, the Trident II, bringing the most advanced and
comprehensive feature set into the open switch ecosystem. We have been
successful in delivering the first version of the specification and working
switch systems from our hardware partner that complies with the specification
-- all in less than six months. We believe this specification will enable
faster innovation in the market and more choice for data center operators and
telecom service providers. " 

Cumulus Networks has proposed its Open Network Install Environment (ONIE)
software as a contribution to OCP:

"ONIE, which was introduced by Cumulus Networks and is supported by
networking OEM, ODM, and communication silicon vendors across the globe, is
an industry standard network boot loader to install software on network
switches, thus enabling a bare metal Ethernet switch ecosystem. ONIE defines
a runtime install environment that supports multiple network operating system
vendors at scale that -- for the first time -- effectively provides customers
more control and the ability to choose when it comes to their networking
hardware and software. ONIE's open install environment can be supported on a
range of existing ODM switches, as well as the open network switch design
specifications being developed by the Open Compute Project, ultimately
enabling end users to select among different network operating systems and a
variety of compatible hardware."

Intel has also developed a specification for an open switch, and they
describe it as follows:

"Intel’s proposed contribution to the Open Compute Project network working
group is a specification for a bare-metal, top-of-rack switch. The
specification describes a 48x4 10/40G switch including all necessary
subsystems for switching, control CPU, peripherals, external interfaces,
power, cooling, and mechanical enclosure. An example of a switch that adheres
to this specification, based on Intel parts, can be found here. Platforms
based on this spec enable more choice, improved flexibility, and a better
cost structure for customers who choose to implement a software defined
approach for networking and switching. To complement the proposed
contribution to the OCP working group, Intel brings an ecosystem of partners
ready to supply production level systems with a variety of solution

Finally, Mellanox is the third company to have developed a specification for
an open switch. Here's their description:

"Mellanox is expanding its Open Compute Project portfolio offering with the
proposed contribution of its SwitchX-2 x86-based top-of-rack switch
specification. The switch supports 48 SFP+ ports and 12 QSFP ports, enabling
non-blocking connectivity within the OCP Open Rack, or alternatively,
enabling 60 10GbE server ports when using QSFP+ to SFP+ breakout cables to
increase rack efficiency for less bandwidth demanding applications. The new
switch will be the first to enable ONIE over x86, and we expect it to
dramatically improve power consumption, latency, and density and enable
larger, more efficient, and more cost-effective datacenter designs."

Taken together, these contributions are tremendous steps forward toward our
vision of a truly disaggregated network stack. They are also vivid proof of
the OCP community's ability to work together, in the open, to develop
innovative new technologies -- and to do so at an almost unheard-of pace.

We will continue our work on these technologies and others later this week,
at the OCP engineering workshop being held at University of Texas at San
Antonio. We hope to see you there!

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