Driving Innovation with OpenEthernet

Authored by: Amir Sheffer, Sr. Product Manager

For years, data center Ethernet switching equipment has been based on closed, proprietary vendor implementation, providing very limited flexibility for the user. The progress made in open source applications and software can be leveraged in Ethernet switches to create a new generation of open, flexible and customizable solutions.  

Open Source Enables New Solutions / Trends / Technologies

Open Source Enables New Solutions / Trends / Technologies

Switches based on the OpenEthernet approach will replace traditional closed-code switches and will allow data center customization for optimized and efficient operation. The OpenEthernet switch is based on functionality developed by the equipment vendor and integration with public, open cores and tools that can be freely downloaded from the internet.

As a leader of this approach, Mellanox is investing in the integration and development of such tools, which when combined, can provide complete functionality. Examples for such tools can be OpenFlow–for flow configuration; Puppet and Chef–for switch configuration, Quagga for routing protocols, etc.

Open Ethernet

Mellanox switch software runs over Linux.  Even if the Linux kernel provides good infrastructure for the switch, it lacks functionality to connect it to the switching and routing functions. For example, a routing reflector unit is required to synchronize between the Linux kernel, the routing stack and the silicon data path. For this purpose, we are developing and opening such “reflector” units to the open community.

Another example can be the hardware driver or the software development kit (SDK) application interface (API) for the switch. By opening the API to the community, we will be the first ones to enable full flexibility and ease-of implementation to our customers and we believe other will follow.

In parallel, Mellanox is participating in industry-wide groups that are taking a similar approach.  One example can be the OpenStack community, in which Mellanox is an active member. Another example for such group can be the Open Compute Project (OCP), which is defining open and standard equipment for data centers. Mellanox already builds OCP-compatible NICs and has recently contributed the hardware design documents of the SX1024 switch system to OCP.

So far, we have briefly touched several aspects of OpenEthernet. An important feature that will be explained in the coming weeks is the hardware – software separation.

 To be continued…..

About Cecelia Taylor

Cecelia has served as the Sr. Social Media Manager for Mellanox since 2013. She previously worked at Cisco & ZipRealty managing social media marketing, publishing and metrics. Prior to her career in social media, she worked in audience development marketing for B2B publishing. She has a BA from Mills College and resides in the SF East Bay. Follow her on Twitter: @CeceliaTaylor