Welcome!

SDN Journal Authors: Pat Romanski, Elizabeth White, Gil Allouche, Lori MacVittie, Dana Gardner

Related Topics: SDN Journal, Java, SOA & WOA, Linux, Virtualization, Cloud Expo

SDN Journal: Blog Post

Open Compute, Open Switch API and Open Network Install Environment

The focus of OCP has been mostly around hardware designs and specifications

Much has been published about the Open Compute Project. Initiated by Facebook, it has become an industry effort focused on standardization of many parts and components in the datacenter. Initially focused on racks, power and server design, it has also added storage and now networking to its fold. Its goal is fairly straightforward: “how can we design the most efficient compute infrastructure possible”, a direct quote from its web site.

The focus of OCP has been mostly around hardware designs and specifications. If you look at the networking arm of OCP, you find several Top of Rack (ToR) ethernet switch hardware designs donated by the likes of Broadcom, Mellanox and Intel. By creating open specifications of hardware designs for fairly standard ethernet switches, the industry can standardize on these designs and economics of scale would drive down the cost to create and maintain this hardware. A noble goal and there are many opinions on both sides of this effort. Mostly referred to as “bare metal” and “commodity”, you can easily spend days reading up on many opinions. Mike Bushong yesterday discussed pricing implications for resellers in this blog post.

An interesting development however is that the network group within OCP has added a few software projects to its scope. Mellanox has initiated an Open Switch API specification, which attempts to standardize the lowest layer of interaction with the actual ethernet switching hardware. As a hardware vendor today, the choice of switching chipset is an important one beyond just the raw capabilities of the chipset. Each chip vendor that has a portfolio of chipsets also has a Software Development Kit or SDK that provides the initial layer of software to instruct the chip what to do. Ultimately every chip is manipulated with a (rather large) set of registers that need to be set, but that complexity is hidden in this SDK. The SDK presents a set of higher level APIs to program against that control the functioning of the chipset. This is what we (Plexxi) and all other hardware vendors write our software against, this is how we glue our software to the ethernet switching hardware.

Different chipset vendors of course have different SDKs, which makes changing chipsets a non-trivial step to take, your software has to adjust to a different SDK with all its functional and sometimes architectural differences. By creating a common switch API, life for us would be better, we would have a single API to develop against and could easily support multiple chipsets since the differences would be hidden behind this API. With so much functional difference between the chipset vendors, even these APIs will have lots of vendor specific extensions in them, but as recipients of such standardization, we can only welcome the effort.

The second software component the networking arm of OCP has taken on is the Open Network Install Environment. ONIE is a boot loader and installer based on a complete, but narrow linux distribution. ONIE was created as an open source, vendor agnostic boot loader with the desire to have these commodity switches leave their factory with only ONIE installed. Driven by Cumulus it creates a convenient and standard method to get software installed and loaded onto bare metal switches from commodity hardware providers. It’s a necessary piece for Cumulus’ business to ensure easy installation of their software onto third party hardware.

ONIE is pretty straight forward and those that use net booting using DHCP, TFTP and a variety of other means will probably say “what’s the big deal”? At a high level, it really provides the same functionality, but with some small, but very relevant differences.

ONIE is built on a full linux distribution. So out of the gate, switches with ONIE installed will boot to a complete linux before they even attempt to find the actual switching software image they ultimately will run. Having a full linux means you have full networking support, you can access the device using telnet, ssh, you name it. Once booted, ONIE will follow a set of search rules to find an image to download and install. There is no pre-conceived notion of what that image is, or what needs to be done to install it, the image itself contains the instructions of how this image needs to be installed, how the internal disk should be formatted,which partition to install into, you name it. ONIE has none of that knowledge, it just has the linux tools to do it. Once a switching software image has been installed, ONIE will reboot the switch again and now boot right through to the software image installed (with of course a chance to interrupt that).

A bit of boot loader, installer and some may even want to call it BIOS, all wrapped together in a linux distribution, ONIE is not magic, it’s not radically innovative. But it is a very convenient and open source way to get switches to boot, find, install and run software all with the safety-net of linux to get into the switch remotely if the software loading, installation or execution really goes bad. I bet most of you have had switches in crash and boot loops before, and they are hard to recover from without physical intervention.

At Plexxi we do not create standard switching hardware, that should be clear. We also don’t create standard switching software for commodity switches. But we are implementing ONIE on our switches and packaging our software to be ONIE installable, available a bit later this year.

For us this is a very convenient and (on its way to being industry) standardized way to implement a boot loading and installation environment that fits well with our open source and linux roots and beliefs. For us this is about providing convenience to our customers and logistics teams. We will have the option to ship our switches with ONIE so that the customer can simply power the switch on, plug in the management ethernet connection, connect our LightRail optical cables and the switch becomes part of a Plexxi ring loaded with the right software, visible to our controller.

It’s not a huge innovative leap, but it’s a significant convenience. And there is lots of value in creating convenience and simplicity, they are significant drivers in our overall solution. Which makes ONIE a nice fit.

The post Open Compute, Open Switch API and Open Network Install Environment appeared first on Plexxi.

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Marten Terpstra

Marten Terpstra is a Product Management Director at Plexxi Inc. Marten has extensive knowledge of the architecture, design, deployment and management of enterprise and carrier networks.

@CloudExpo Stories
"We help companies that are using a lot of Software as a Service. We help companies manage and gain visibility into what people are using inside the company and decide to secure them or use standards to lock down or to embrace the adoption of SaaS inside the company," explained Scott Kriz, Co-founder and CEO of Bitium, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 15th Cloud Expo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
15th Cloud Expo, which took place Nov. 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, expanded the conference content of @ThingsExpo, Big Data Expo, and DevOps Summit to include two developer events. IBM held a Bluemix Developer Playground on November 5 and ElasticBox held a Hackathon on November 6. Both events took place on the expo floor. The Bluemix Developer Playground, for developers of all levels, highlighted the ease of use of Bluemix, its services and functionalit...
Some developers believe that monitoring is a function of the operations team. Some operations teams firmly believe that monitoring the systems they maintain is sufficient to run the business successfully. Most of them are wrong. The complexity of today's applications have gone far and beyond the capabilities of "traditional" system-level monitoring tools and approaches and requires much broader knowledge of business and applications as a whole. The goal of DevOps is to connect all aspects of app...
The 4th International DevOps Summit, co-located with16th International Cloud Expo – being held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY – announces that its Call for Papers is now open. Born out of proven success in agile development, cloud computing, and process automation, DevOps is a macro trend you cannot afford to miss. From showcase success stories from early adopters and web-scale businesses, DevOps is expanding to organizations of all sizes, including the world's large...
SAP is delivering break-through innovation combined with fantastic user experience powered by the market-leading in-memory technology, SAP HANA. In his General Session at 15th Cloud Expo, Thorsten Leiduck, VP ISVs & Digital Commerce, SAP, discussed how SAP and partners provide cloud and hybrid cloud solutions as well as real-time Big Data offerings that help companies of all sizes and industries run better. SAP launched an application challenge to award the most innovative SAP HANA and SAP HANA...
Want to enable self-service provisioning of application environments in minutes that mirror production? Can you automatically provide rich data with code-level detail back to the developers when issues occur in production? In his session at DevOps Summit, David Tesar, Microsoft Technical Evangelist on Microsoft Azure and DevOps, will discuss how to accomplish this and more utilizing technologies such as Microsoft Azure, Visual Studio online, and Application Insights in this demo-heavy session.
When an enterprise builds a hybrid IaaS cloud connecting its data center to one or more public clouds, security is often a major topic along with the other challenges involved. Security is closely intertwined with the networking choices made for the hybrid cloud. Traditional networking approaches for building a hybrid cloud try to kludge together the enterprise infrastructure with the public cloud. Consequently this approach requires risky, deep "surgery" including changes to firewalls, subnets...
DevOps is all about agility. However, you don't want to be on a high-speed bus to nowhere. The right DevOps approach controls velocity with a tight feedback loop that not only consists of operational data but also incorporates business context. With a business context in the decision making, the right business priorities are incorporated, which results in a higher value creation. In his session at DevOps Summit, Todd Rader, Solutions Architect at AppDynamics, discussed key monitoring techniques...
Cultural, regulatory, environmental, political and economic (CREPE) conditions over the past decade are creating cross-industry solution spaces that require processes and technologies from both the Internet of Things (IoT), and Data Management and Analytics (DMA). These solution spaces are evolving into Sensor Analytics Ecosystems (SAE) that represent significant new opportunities for organizations of all types. Public Utilities throughout the world, providing electricity, natural gas and water,...
The security devil is always in the details of the attack: the ones you've endured, the ones you prepare yourself to fend off, and the ones that, you fear, will catch you completely unaware and defenseless. The Internet of Things (IoT) is nothing if not an endless proliferation of details. It's the vision of a world in which continuous Internet connectivity and addressability is embedded into a growing range of human artifacts, into the natural world, and even into our smartphones, appliances, a...
How do APIs and IoT relate? The answer is not as simple as merely adding an API on top of a dumb device, but rather about understanding the architectural patterns for implementing an IoT fabric. There are typically two or three trends: Exposing the device to a management framework Exposing that management framework to a business centric logic Exposing that business layer and data to end users. This last trend is the IoT stack, which involves a new shift in the separation of what stuff happe...
The 3rd International Internet of @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that its Call for Papers is now open. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the biggest idea since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago.
The Internet of Things is tied together with a thin strand that is known as time. Coincidentally, at the core of nearly all data analytics is a timestamp. When working with time series data there are a few core principles that everyone should consider, especially across datasets where time is the common boundary. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Scott, Director of Enterprise Strategy & Architecture at MapR Technologies, discussed single-value, geo-spatial, and log time series dat...
An entirely new security model is needed for the Internet of Things, or is it? Can we save some old and tested controls for this new and different environment? In his session at @ThingsExpo, New York's at the Javits Center, Davi Ottenheimer, EMC Senior Director of Trust, reviewed hands-on lessons with IoT devices and reveal a new risk balance you might not expect. Davi Ottenheimer, EMC Senior Director of Trust, has more than nineteen years' experience managing global security operations and asse...
The Internet of Things will greatly expand the opportunities for data collection and new business models driven off of that data. In her session at @ThingsExpo, Esmeralda Swartz, CMO of MetraTech, discussed how for this to be effective you not only need to have infrastructure and operational models capable of utilizing this new phenomenon, but increasingly service providers will need to convince a skeptical public to participate. Get ready to show them the money!
SYS-CON Media announced that Centrify, a provider of unified identity management across cloud, mobile and data center environments that delivers single sign-on (SSO) for users and a simplified identity infrastructure for IT, has launched an ad campaign on Cloud Computing Journal. The ads focus on security: how an organization can successfully control privilege for all of the organization’s identities to mitigate identity-related risk without slowing down the business, and how Centrify provides ...
The Internet of Things will put IT to its ultimate test by creating infinite new opportunities to digitize products and services, generate and analyze new data to improve customer satisfaction, and discover new ways to gain a competitive advantage across nearly every industry. In order to help corporate business units to capitalize on the rapidly evolving IoT opportunities, IT must stand up to a new set of challenges. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jeff Kaplan, Managing Director of THINKstrateg...
"SAP had made a big transition into the cloud as we believe it has significant value for our customers, drives innovation and is easy to consume. When you look at the SAP portfolio, SAP HANA is the underlying platform and it powers all of our platforms and all of our analytics," explained Thorsten Leiduck, VP ISVs & Digital Commerce at SAP, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 15th Cloud Expo, held Nov 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
One of the biggest challenges when developing connected devices is identifying user value and delivering it through successful user experiences. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Mike Kuniavsky, Principal Scientist, Innovation Services at PARC, described an IoT-specific approach to user experience design that combines approaches from interaction design, industrial design and service design to create experiences that go beyond simple connected gadgets to create lasting, multi-device exp...
Enthusiasm for the Internet of Things has reached an all-time high. In 2013 alone, venture capitalists spent more than $1 billion dollars investing in the IoT space. With "smart" appliances and devices, IoT covers wearable smart devices, cloud services to hardware companies. Nest, a Google company, detects temperatures inside homes and automatically adjusts it by tracking its user's habit. These technologies are quickly developing and with it come challenges such as bridging infrastructure gaps,...