Dell drops next network OS on the waiting world

It's Linux, Jim … exactly as we know it

Dell's taken another arrow from its software-defined network (SDN) quiver and drawn a new bead on Cisco, with the launch of Dell Networking Operating System 10.

Leading the release is a split in the network architecture, to get rid of the platform-specific Linux tweaks needed so the operating system can talk to the silicon.

Instead, as Dell's Networking executive director, product marketing, Jeff Baher explained to The Register's networking desk, OS 10 runs an unmodified Linux kernel.

The appeal of this, he said, is that by getting rid of a special-sauce Linux build for the switches, DC operators can standardise on the same build throughout their environments.

Beneath the kernel, OS 10 gives developers access to the silicon via the the Open Compute Project's (OCP) Switch Abstraction Interface (SAI).

“It's independent of any silicon from any manufacturer,” Baher said, letting developers “write applications without having to worry about whether the silicon is Broadcom or Marvell.

“For Dell, it means we're not tied to the silicon underneath.”

Also important, he said, is that while there's a lot of emerging network function virtualisation (NFV) applications that run well on x86 architectures, environments that need the throughput of merchant silicon don't need a different network OS stack.

Dell's shim above the Linux is Control Plane Services (CPS), that third-party developers can call via APIs, creating what he says is a “completely-programmable environment directly into the switching fabric”.

The free base package includes the OCP SAI layer, the OS 10 Base Linux, and the CPS development environment.

On top of that, there's the premium Dell extras, which at the moment include Policy Control, Layer 2 and Layer 3 protocols, and a set of Common Management Services (CMS).

“The vision is to make this the mainline software for our whole portfolio,” he told us. “We're not trying to create separate product lines in which 'this is for Dell, this is the open stuff for partners'”.

Right now, the OS 10 Base is in general availability, with OS 10 Premium in beta and due for G/A in Q3 2016. ®

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