Bare Metal For the Rest of Us

Bare metal switching technology fueled the world’s big cloud data centers, with a simplified supply chain as the economic driver. Now the technology and economics are hitting the mainstream in open networking solutions for the rest of us.

Bare metal servers changed the world of compute. The same thing is happening in networking: bare metal switches are the foundation for an inevitable shift in data center networking. The movement is called “open networking” but at it’s core, it’s really just about great physical networks with the additional benefits of a rich ecosystem, broad support for automation and monitoring tools, and improved economics.

The big players in bare metal switching – including Accton and Quanta – leverage best-in-class components to deliver high performance switches, and they do it fast. Add an OS (more on that later) and you’ve got a disaggregated model that enables networking that fulfills the vision of the software-defined data center. If SDDC doesn’t matter so much to you, then think of this: bare metal may fulfill your vision of a more affordable, manageable network that gives you the time and funding for more projects that really help your business.

(For comparisons on pricing and shipping speed versus traditional networks, check out “Bare Metal Networking, Then and Now…”)

There’s another set of players worth mentioning here. Cisco, Arista, Brocade and Juniper source some or all of their switches from these same bare metal leaders. They’re smart to do that given the economics and rapid time-to-market of industry standard silicon from Broadcom. They layer on a proprietary OS, a unique CLI and custom management to create what we refer to affectionately as the “highly engineered stack.” The not-so-affectionate part: margins. It’s an expensive model for these vendors, and we’ve all helped to fund their profitability.

Now this proprietary model is threatened. And it’s about time.

The biggest cloud operators couldn’t scale with highly engineered stacks – and they needed something way more cost effective for their massive data centers. The solution? Hire an army of PhDs, create the most scalable and efficient networks on the planet, and leverage the network as a source of competitive differentiation.

The challenge of an affordable, scalable data center network may sound familiar to you – given that organizations of all sizes are figuring out how to manage and leverage ever-growing volumes of data.

In his blog “Open Networking is Ready for Primetime in 2015,” Rami Jebara from Tuangru puts it this way: “Companies simply can’t scale economically with proprietary platforms.”

The network as a competitive differentiator may be a newer concept, though – because today’s beloved highly engineered stacks track to incumbent vendors’ innovation cycles, not yours.

So how do you tackle the challenge? Hiring a PhD Army is no longer necessary. In 2014, this technology hit the market with commercially viable options for the rest of us. “Open networking” took off. Early adopters (you know who you are, and we all thank you) passed the baton to the mainstream. Now open, responsive and affordable networks are feasible across a variety of architectures, built with best-of-breed hardware, an open networking operating system, and solution elements from a robust ecosystem.

Bare metal switching is the foundation of open networking.

Broadcom merchant silicon is used in both proprietary and industry standard switches. Traditional networking vendors offer hardware based on that silicon at artificially high prices to fuel increases in margins and stock price. Industry standard bare metal switches use the same silicon but since it’s disaggregated from software and highly engineered vendor stacks, it costs much less. In this model, customers choose best-in-class hardware and buy closer to the source, vastly reducing the capital cost of physical networking.

Layered on the bare metal switches is ONIE, the Open Network Install Environment. This open source software on the switch allows the target network operating system to be installed as part of data center provisioning – the same process used for servers.

The use of merchant silicon also fuels rapid innovation among industry suppliers. As Broadcom’s addressable market expands, they innovate more quickly as evidenced in their Tomahawk announcement. This pace is faster than custom ASICs– which further influences traditional switch vendors to build offerings based on bare metal.

The result is a cycle that shifts the balance of power back to buyers.

Here’s the cycle: functional differences between proprietary and bare metal options shrink, customers refuse to pay extra for the brand name, and traditional vendors get the squeeze on margins. In an open market, customer value triumphs!

With bare metal switching, hardware savings are just the beginning.

Capex savings with are compelling, but Opex savings may be even greater – and that’s where the OS really matters. In order to be consumable at scale, open networking has to be built around a referencable, easily accessible functional model, and that means Linux, already the lingua franca of the data center.

With use of a real Linux networking operating system and ability to use open or commercial Linux tools, you see the operational savings: it’s simpler to add capacity, configure and troubleshoot; efficiency improves with workflow; and automation speeds service delivery.

Cumulus Linux, the leading OS for bare metal switches and open networking, is a true Linux distribution containing open source plus hardware acceleration of IPv4/IPv6 switching and routing functions. Cumulus Networks technology runs over a million switch ports and supports layer 2, layer 3 and layer 3 overlay networks.

Bare metal switches and Cumulus Linux make your network open, responsive and affordable.

Bare metal switching is the foundation for open networking. As part of a broad ecosystem of hardware, software, alliance and channel partners, Cumulus Networks is unleashing the power of open networking – making the benefits of bare metal accessible beyond the big clouds… to the rest of us.

Join us on January 14th for an exclusive webinar about Bare Metal and Open Networking to learn more.

The post Bare Metal For the Rest of Us appeared first on Cumulus Networks Blog.

Read more here:: Cumulus Networks