Welcome!

SDN Journal Authors: Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, John Walsh, Sven Olav Lund, Simon Hill

Related Topics: SDN Journal, Java IoT, Microservices Expo, Linux Containers, Containers Expo Blog, @CloudExpo

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
Agile has finally jumped the technology shark, expanding outside the software world. Enterprises are now increasingly adopting Agile practices across their organizations in order to successfully navigate the disruptive waters that threaten to drown them. In our quest for establishing change as a core competency in our organizations, this business-centric notion of Agile is an essential component of Agile Digital Transformation. In the years since the publication of the Agile Manifesto, the conn...
In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, James Henry, Co-CEO/CTO of Calgary Scientific Inc., introduced you to the challenges, solutions and benefits of training AI systems to solve visual problems with an emphasis on improving AIs with continuous training in the field. He explored applications in several industries and discussed technologies that allow the deployment of advanced visualization solutions to the cloud.
"MobiDev is a software development company and we do complex, custom software development for everybody from entrepreneurs to large enterprises," explained Alan Winters, U.S. Head of Business Development at MobiDev, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Carl J. Levine, Senior Technical Evangelist for NS1, will objectively discuss how DNS is used to solve Digital Transformation challenges in large SaaS applications, CDNs, AdTech platforms, and other demanding use cases. Carl J. Levine is the Senior Technical Evangelist for NS1. A veteran of the Internet Infrastructure space, he has over a decade of experience with startups, networking protocols and Internet infrastructure, combined with the unique ability to it...
Vulnerability management is vital for large companies that need to secure containers across thousands of hosts, but many struggle to understand how exposed they are when they discover a new high security vulnerability. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, John Morello, CTO of Twistlock, addressed this pressing concern by introducing the concept of the “Vulnerability Risk Tree API,” which brings all the data together in a simple REST endpoint, allowing companies to easily grasp the severity of the ...
Enterprises are adopting Kubernetes to accelerate the development and the delivery of cloud-native applications. However, sharing a Kubernetes cluster between members of the same team can be challenging. And, sharing clusters across multiple teams is even harder. Kubernetes offers several constructs to help implement segmentation and isolation. However, these primitives can be complex to understand and apply. As a result, it’s becoming common for enterprises to end up with several clusters. Thi...
While some developers care passionately about how data centers and clouds are architected, for most, it is only the end result that matters. To the majority of companies, technology exists to solve a business problem, and only delivers value when it is solving that problem. 2017 brings the mainstream adoption of containers for production workloads. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Ben McCormack, VP of Operations at Evernote, discussed how data centers of the future will be managed, how the p...
"NetApp is known as a data management leader but we do a lot more than just data management on-prem with the data centers of our customers. We're also big in the hybrid cloud," explained Wes Talbert, Principal Architect at NetApp, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
"Space Monkey by Vivent Smart Home is a product that is a distributed cloud-based edge storage network. Vivent Smart Home, our parent company, is a smart home provider that places a lot of hard drives across homes in North America," explained JT Olds, Director of Engineering, and Brandon Crowfeather, Product Manager, at Vivint Smart Home, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
The question before companies today is not whether to become intelligent, it’s a question of how and how fast. The key is to adopt and deploy an intelligent application strategy while simultaneously preparing to scale that intelligence. In her session at 21st Cloud Expo, Sangeeta Chakraborty, Chief Customer Officer at Ayasdi, provided a tactical framework to become a truly intelligent enterprise, including how to identify the right applications for AI, how to build a Center of Excellence to oper...
"IBM is really all in on blockchain. We take a look at sort of the history of blockchain ledger technologies. It started out with bitcoin, Ethereum, and IBM evaluated these particular blockchain technologies and found they were anonymous and permissionless and that many companies were looking for permissioned blockchain," stated René Bostic, Technical VP of the IBM Cloud Unit in North America, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Conventi...
Coca-Cola’s Google powered digital signage system lays the groundwork for a more valuable connection between Coke and its customers. Digital signs pair software with high-resolution displays so that a message can be changed instantly based on what the operator wants to communicate or sell. In their Day 3 Keynote at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Chambers, Global Group Director, Digital Innovation, Coca-Cola, and Vidya Nagarajan, a Senior Product Manager at Google, discussed how from store operations and ...
"Infoblox does DNS, DHCP and IP address management for not only enterprise networks but cloud networks as well. Customers are looking for a single platform that can extend not only in their private enterprise environment but private cloud, public cloud, tracking all the IP space and everything that is going on in that environment," explained Steve Salo, Principal Systems Engineer at Infoblox, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Conventio...
Large industrial manufacturing organizations are adopting the agile principles of cloud software companies. The industrial manufacturing development process has not scaled over time. Now that design CAD teams are geographically distributed, centralizing their work is key. With large multi-gigabyte projects, outdated tools have stifled industrial team agility, time-to-market milestones, and impacted P&L stakeholders.
"ZeroStack is a startup in Silicon Valley. We're solving a very interesting problem around bringing public cloud convenience with private cloud control for enterprises and mid-size companies," explained Kamesh Pemmaraju, VP of Product Management at ZeroStack, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
"We're focused on how to get some of the attributes that you would expect from an Amazon, Azure, Google, and doing that on-prem. We believe today that you can actually get those types of things done with certain architectures available in the market today," explained Steve Conner, VP of Sales at Cloudistics, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
"Codigm is based on the cloud and we are here to explore marketing opportunities in America. Our mission is to make an ecosystem of the SW environment that anyone can understand, learn, teach, and develop the SW on the cloud," explained Sung Tae Ryu, CEO of Codigm, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Data scientists must access high-performance computing resources across a wide-area network. To achieve cloud-based HPC visualization, researchers must transfer datasets and visualization results efficiently. HPC clusters now compute GPU-accelerated visualization in the cloud cluster. To efficiently display results remotely, a high-performance, low-latency protocol transfers the display from the cluster to a remote desktop. Further, tools to easily mount remote datasets and efficiently transfer...
High-velocity engineering teams are applying not only continuous delivery processes, but also lessons in experimentation from established leaders like Amazon, Netflix, and Facebook. These companies have made experimentation a foundation for their release processes, allowing them to try out major feature releases and redesigns within smaller groups before making them broadly available. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Brian Lucas, Senior Staff Engineer at Optimizely, discussed how by using ne...
Gemini is Yahoo’s native and search advertising platform. To ensure the quality of a complex distributed system that spans multiple products and components and across various desktop websites and mobile app and web experiences – both Yahoo owned and operated and third-party syndication (supply), with complex interaction with more than a billion users and numerous advertisers globally (demand) – it becomes imperative to automate a set of end-to-end tests 24x7 to detect bugs and regression. In th...