The power of three forces combined: NVIDIA, Mellanox, Cumulus Networks

By GIXnews

It’s my belief that the combination of NVIDIA, Mellanox and Cumulus creates something unique in the marketplace. It’s not about software. It’s not about switches. It’s about enabling customer needs, whatever those may be.

Cumulus was founded on the idea of open. Open standards, open networking and open source. After the acquisition, some critics immediately worried about Cumulus moving to a closed model or that this was just another example that disaggregation isn’t the future for the networking industry.

Let’s take a look at what each company is bringing to the table to support the open networking mission.

NVIDIA Mellanox has been a major contributor to the Linux kernel for years, mainly around drivers for their server network adapters, but in the last few years, they have been pushing hard around the SwitchDev project that is eliminating the single biggest challenge to any network operating system to support a switch. By putting information about their ASIC and switching platform directly into the kernel the software no longer needs to know about the quirks of the switch. The device drivers determine if the fan is on the left or right side. A standard interface to the driver determines how you can detect if port 1 has a cable plugged in or not. It’s hard to say anyone in the switching industry is doing as much as Mellanox, when it comes to hardware, in the area of openness.

Cumulus Networks (now NVIDIA), as already mentioned, was built on the idea of open. We are a major contributor to the Linux kernel, including upstream innovations like VRF and the ifupdown2 interface manager. By looking at a switch as just another type of Linux server it has enabled us at Cumulus to run any third-party software since day one. This means things like Salt Minions, Telegraf agents or even KVM and Docker. By relying on a standard Linux kernel none of these applications need modifications to run on Cumulus. If it works on Debian, it works on Cumulus. But beyond these “nice to have” features, the core of our networking platform are features like FRRouting for layer 3 routing functionality and mstpd for layer 2 spanning tree. We are major contributors to both projects, but even if we were not, they are both licensed under the GPL license, restricting commercial use without contributing code back. Changing the culture of a company founded on the idea of open is hard enough, but when the core components of your product don’t allow you to go closed source anyhow, the speculation isn’t even worth the energy.

NVIDIA: Their knowledge and success in GPU has allowed them to grow to be an amazing company. When combined with the growing interest in AI and ML is driving NVIDIA to become a leader in the enterprise infrastructure space. Plus, NVIDIA has a growing open source library for AI and ML components.

Combined forces

When you combine these three companies together you get something greater than their component part. NVIDIA brings a broad partner ecosystem and long track-record of delivering high-quality infrastructure components.

When you look at a combined NVIDIA Mellanox and NVIDIA Cumulus organization you can see:

A dedication to SONiC with open platform drivers and a large number of shared components between SONiC and Cumulus Linux including FRR and the base kernel infrastructure.
A turn-key hardware+software networking solution. Cumulus Networks has been shipping a turn-key solution in the form of Cumulus Express for years now. This merely becomes an evolution of that strategy.
Open networking platforms running Cumulus Linux. Cumulus has an established history, with a number of open networking partners, like Lenovo, HPE and Penguin Computing, all of whom are NVIDIA OEM partners. The flexibility customers have always had with Cumulus, the ability to buy hardware from multiple sources, does not change.

The power of NVIDIA behind the networking hardware and software expertise of Mellanox and Cumulus Networks is a game-changer for the industry. A new player has entered the game and we plan to change the industry forever.

Source:: Cumulus Networks