Open network operating system developer Cumulus Networks gained a significant partner this week in Dell Technologies (Nasdaq: DELL)'s networking unit, as the two companies announced a partnership and resale agreement under which Dell datacenter switches will work with Cumulus's Linux-based OS. (See Dell Partners With Cumulus Networks.)
Dell is promoting the partnership as the first of its kind, where a datacenter network equipment vendor is willing to support third-party OS options. Until now, Dell has used only the Dell Networking OS, formerly known as the Force10 Networks OS that Dell picked up through its Force10 Networks acquisition, as the OS for its S6000 and S4810 top-of-rack switches. (See Dell to Acquire Force10.)
Dell and Cumulus call it the model for the "disaggregation" of the datacenter network hardware and software that efforts like the Open Compute Project have been calling for.
Why this matters
Dell's announcement came during an Open Compute Project event in San Jose, Calif., also coinciding with Cisco Systems' Cisco Live! Event in Milan, Italy. The timing says a lot: Dell is looking to embrace open-source network architectures for the datacenter, while Cisco is only inching toward more open architectures, largely protecting its proprietary base.
There is major potential here for Dell to partner and resell other network OS solutions, not just the Cumulus OS, and that might be the company's best bet to successfully compete with Cisco if the latter sticks to its proprietary knitting.
For Cumulus, this is a major win in its efforts to break the old model and get into datacenter architectures. If the company is successful long-term, the pain could be doubly acute for Cisco, as Cumulus was co-founded by former Cisco Unified Computing System VP J.R. Rivers, and also claims ex-Cisco engineers as its chief scientist and vice president of software engineering. (See Cumulus Intros Network OS.)
The aftermath of this announcement also should be interesting to watch to see how it affects the willingness of other datacenter hardware vendors to push more in the same direction and open their gear to open-source OS solutions. As we wait for a progress report from the OpenDaylight Project, it is becoming clear that the Open Compute Project is not standing still. (See Open Compute Project Takes on Networking.)
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— Dan O'Shea, Managing Editor, Light Reading