Lead Image © Pei Ling Hoo, 123RF.com

Lead Image © Pei Ling Hoo, 123RF.com

OS10 and Dell's open networking offensive

Freedom, as in OS10

Article from ADMIN 35/2016
Dell's OS10 is a Linux-based operating system for network hardware that is designed to free network admins from the stranglehold of established manufacturers. We look at what it is, how the system works, and what it can do for you.

Dell caused a sensation at the beginning of 2016 when the manufacturer, known more for its server and desktop systems, presented an operating system for network switches named OS10 [1] (Operating System 10). Although switches by Dell formerly have run on an operating system simply dubbed OS, OS10 ups the game in many ways, one of them being that – unlike its predecessor – OS10 is based on Linux. Also, Dell provides the operating system expressly with the promise of decoupling: OS10 works not only on devices by Dell, but also on generic network hardware.

In contrast to proprietary switch operating systems, OS10 also offers open APIs, turning switches into normal Linux servers that can be managed in large environments like their server counterparts. I take a closer look at what Dell promises with OS10, how the operating system differs from classical switch firmware, and the market opportunities that OS10 could reveal.

Market Analysis

A look at the market for network infrastructure helps you understand why an open switch operating system such as OS10 is attracting so much attention. The market is not renowned for being flexible and fast moving: For decades, only a few corporations have divided it up, led by Juniper and Cisco.

In most cases the decision in favor of network hardware by one of these manufacturers is equivalent to a long partnership. If you have equipped your data center throughout with hardware by one producer, you will find it difficult to break away for several reasons. Although virtually all common network protocols and technologies have standards, it is nevertheless not easy to combine network hardware from two different vendors in everyday life. If you have ever tried to use jumbo frames between switches by different manufacturers, you will be familiar with the problem.

Additionally, a network

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