Cumulus Networks Goes Virtual with Cumulus VX for SDN Testing

Cumulus Networks has been busy building its Linux-based network operating system for the last few years. Cumulus has also been a key player in helping to enable the Open Compute Project’s networking effort for ‘white box’ networking gear. Now Cumulus is going a little sideways with its new Cumulus VX virtual offering, which enables Cumulus to run on any virtualization hypervisor.

“Cumulus VX is based on the same foundation as Cumulus Linux and Cumulus RMP [Rack Management Platform],” Mohit Mehta, Product Manager at Cumulus Networks, told Enterprise Networking Planet. “Since it is meant for use within a virtual environment, what it lacks is the functionality around hardware, i.e., hardware acceleration, optimization and installation.”

What that means is that Cumulus VX is a bit limited and won’t enable a user to test for ONIE (Open Network Install Environment) installation on hardware switch capabilities, throughput performance and scale on hardware, and specific hardware optimization, including fans, sensors and cables.

“All the other protocols and software functionality in Cumulus Linux and RMP is included with Cumulus VX,” Mehta said. “In the future, we might be enhancing some of this within Cumulus VX to drive the virtual experience to match the real experience more closely.”

Mehta said that the plan is to time new releases of Cumulus VX with Cumulus Linux releases. He added that there’s no upgrade path to go from version to another.

“Users will have to re-install the new version of Cumulus VX for testing and prototyping,” Mehta said. “However, users are free to install additional packages on Cumulus VX as they wish.”

As to why Cumulus VX is being announced now, Mehta commented that the main reason is the fact that interest in open networking has really taken off. Adoption is accelerating rapidly, and while Cumulus Linux is used by some of the largest data centers in the world, it’s by no means confined to them.

“Companies of all sizes and across a broad set of industry sectors are interested in open networking,” Mehta said. “We and our community of channel and technology ecosystem partners [Dell, HP, Supermicro, etc.] needed a scalable way to allow a growing number of people to experience our technology. This gives people who would prefer to try open networking out on their own time a way to do that.”

Additionally, Mehta noted that several current Cumulus Linux customers had expressed interest in something like this to use for prototyping. While there is much interest in the open networking model and Cumulus, there are still some barriers to adoption for certain organizations.

“For folks from a traditional networking background, it’s more learning and adapting to the new operating model,” Mehta said. “Traditional IT teams realize the benefits that web-scale companies have achieved by breaking down silos, and we constantly engage with these teams helping them move from siloed organizations to cross-functional teams managing compute, storage, networking in an integrated manner.”

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at Enterprise Networking Planet and Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

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