You Say You Want an Evolution?

Reinvent your operating model with SONiC

When it comes to the network operating system (NOS), there is a revolution underway. If you’re reading this blog there’s a good chance you’re a part of it—or ready to join. The traditional vertically integrated networking software stack has some inherent limitations, and it’s driving a fundamental shift in the approach to enterprise networking. And that revolution is driving an important evolution of open source enterprise networking, with Software for Open Networking in the Cloud—or SONiC.

Since our announcement of the Enterprise SONiC Distribution by Dell Technologies earlier this year, we have continued to evolve this platform, improving the manageability and validation of SONiC on Dell platforms and achieving consistent API and CLI support for all features:

  • Cables & optics qualification
  • Performance & scale measurements
  • Scale-out L2/L3 fabrics (VxLAN – EVPN Overlay)
  • Scale-out L3 data center fabrics
  • L2/L3 multicast top-of-rack/aggregation

The availability of a fully supported SONiC distribution with industry-leading manageability is exciting for our industry and for customers. SONiC, based on Linux with containerized microservices, was designed for cloud architecture from day one. The challenge has been to extend the benefits and flexibility of cloud to enterprise and service provider customers, who have unique requirements to integrate SONiC with their data center and network stacks. Enterprise SONiC Distribution by Dell Technologies provides the API, CLI and hardware configuration automation to create the bridge between these two worlds, and it unleashes rapid innovation and customer empowerment unlike anything we have seen in networking.

Recently, I had the pleasure of participating in a SONiC industry roundtable, hosted by IDC’s Research Vice President, Datacenter Networks, Brad Casemore. We were joined by Microsoft’s Dave Maltz, VMware’s Pere Monclus and Comcast’s Yiu Lee to discuss the networking revolution that is underway, and how it’s driving the evolution and increasing adoption of SONiC. In fact, as Brad described, IDC is seeing growing demand for switches that ship with or will run SONiC, and forecasts a SONIC data center switch market that will reach $2 billion by 2024¹.

Vive l’évolution

The industry networking software stack traditionally has been vertically integrated with the hardware, along with proprietary management and telemetry features. While the integrated model provided management and support for enterprises and service provider customers, it had many limitations including a slow innovation cycle and limited flexibility to customize the software stack for different deployment options.  These limitations were significantly amplified with the transition to cloud and modern applications. Traditional networking was not designed to support an empowered developer community that requires self-serve provisioning, rapid development and implementation of features and automated application deployment.  The industry experimented with many network operating systems and open source community projects to resolve this disconnect, with mixed results—until now.

SONiC has evolved into an industry software platform with a significant ecosystem and consistent growth in features and adoption. This is the result of deliberate design and investments to solve the root cause of the issues:

  • SONiC is Linux-based NOS with a containerized architecture, which allows developers to leverage all the industry investment in bare metal automation, container management tools and lifecycle management. There is no need to develop separate tools for networking from the rest of the data center stack (compute and storage), as has been the case for traditional networks.
  • Infrastructure managers, developers and site reliability engineering teams are able to use their familiar observability tools, dashboards and processes for networking immediately, and have direct integration with the rest of infrastructure, accelerating project timelines and improving availability dramatically.
  • The cloud-native architecture of SONiC makes it possible to support different silicon and CPU options in many hardware form factors, which expands the use cases significantly to edge, SmartNICs, 5G, NVMe-oF appliances, etc.
  • Additionally, the Enterprise SONiC Distribution by Dell Technologies includes support for API, CLI and hardware configuration for all the features, enabling seamless support for current data center and network deployments. Developers and infrastructure managers no longer have to choose between forward looking cloud architecture and optimization of current deployments with automation.

This increasing maturity of SONiC means the time is right for adoption. In our roundtable discussion, Comcast’s Yiu Lee talked about how SONiC delivers the reliability and ease of day-in, day-out operation without additional investment in development resources, particularly as feature sets have become more mature and the SONiC community has gotten stronger.

It is really exciting to be at this point in the development—in the evolution—of SONiC, and it will be great to experience the acceleration of innovation that is made possible by this new architecture.

I encourage you to get some additional perspective on SONiC by watching the replay of the SONiC industry roundtable. In doing so, I think you’ll see that the time is right to evolve your network infrastructure.

Related Links:

¹ OEM and ODM switches that ship with or will run SONiC in a production environment

About the Author: Ihab Tarazi

Ihab Tarazi is the Chief Technology Officer and Senior Vice President at Dell Technologies Networking and Solutions where he is responsible for technology strategy and roadmap, and next generation products and platforms. Prior to that role, Mr. Tarazi served as Chief Technology Officer at Packet Host, Inc., a leading bare metal cloud company built for developers, where he was responsible for the company's technical and product strategy, engineering, and platform operations. Prior to joining Packet, Mr. Tarazi held a number of positions in the telecom and infrastructure space, including Chief Technology Officer at data center and colocation provider Equinix, where he was accountable for technology innovation and strategic engagements with leading platforms in the Cloud, Security, Storage, Edge and IoT sectors. Previously Mr. Tarazi served as VP Engineering and Technology at Verizon, where he led a global team of providing strategic and tactical oversight for the Engineering and Product Development of Global Enterprise Services including MPLS VPN, IP, Ethernet, Security and Managed Services. He has served as a member of our board of directors for NeoPhotonics Corp. since October 2015.