It is relatively simple to compute like a hyperscaler or cloud builder due to the widespread availability of the X86 server platform, the Kubernetes container controller, and the KVM server virtualization hypervisor. But networking like one has been a completely different story. but it’s getting better.
For its own enlightened self-interest reasons, Google gave the world Kubernetes in July 2015, a sort of foundation based on its international Borg and Omega container systems and virtual machine controllers: Having the world speak your metaphor is almost as powerful as having the world adopt your software. Kubernetes quickly surpassed Mesos, Docker, OpenStack, and a number of other alternatives (including the original OpenShift from Red Hat, which was based on a completely different container metaphor). and a set of codes to express it. Microsoft grabbed the Linux kernel and created the Software for Open Networking in the Cloud (SONiC) network operating system and its related Switch Abstraction Interface (SAI) for its own hyper-scale and cloud purposes, and donated it to the Open Compute Project in September 2015 for much the same reason that Google let go of Kubernetes:
To foster a truly open layer of software in the data center. In the ensuing years, Dell, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Big Switch Networks (now part of switch maker Arista Networks), and Mellanox Technologies (now part of Nvidia) open-sourced their network operating systems in the hope of creating the equivalent of Linux computing in networking devices. But it was pretty apparent even three years ago that SONiC was winning the war of the NOSes, and with all of these efforts, as well as those of Cumulus Networks (another open-source NOS supplier that is also part of Nvidia), it failed to go mainstream in the data center.
The mystery to us was that Red Hat (now part of IBM) or Microsoft did not see the opportunity to create a commercially supported distribution of SONiC. Dell and Apstra did back in 2020, but with limited switch coverage. A startup named Hedgehog, founded by a bunch of former Cisco Systems executives, made a bit of noise last October when it announced its own commercial-grade SONiC distribution. And now Aviz Networks is entering the picture with its Open Networking Enterprise Suite, or ONES.
But rather than creating a SONiC distribution, Aviz Networks has created a network management tool that makes it easier for companies to adopt and manage community SONiC code alongside of the distributions from Dell, Apstra, Hedgehog, and Broadcom (which quietly has its own SONiC distribution). Importantly, the ONE’s tool can also pull telemetry out of other network operating systems such as NX-OS from Cisco, EOS from Arista Networks, and Cumulus from Nvidia to help manage traffic across many different switch and NOS combinations.
This is an important tool because, unlike Microsoft, which went SONiC top to bottom in the Azure Network underpinning its Azure cloud three years ago, most service providers and large enterprises that want to go SONiC in the network will nonetheless have a mix of hardware and software as they transition to white box switches running SONiC.