Cumulus Networks – Network Operating System

Cumulus Networks, founded in 2010, develops open networking software products for organizations of all sizes to affordably build and operate their data centers like those of the world’s largest technology companies.  They no longer have to rely on costly and inflexible vendor-specific equipment.   Organizations can now automate, customize, and scale their networks using flexible hardware options and web-scale data center principles like companies such as Facebook, Google, and Amazon.

Cumulus Linux is the company’s network operating system (NOS) and primary product offering.  It is a flavor of the Debian Linux distro and is designed to be used in open, modular leaf-spine software-defined network (SDN) architectures. Cumulus Linux can be installed on over fifty different models of white-box (bare metal) switches from partner vendors, such as Dell and HPE, or comes pre-installed in the Cumulus Express.  Benefits of deploying Cumulus Linux across an organization’s data center include but are not limited to:

  • Ability to automate configuration and management of network switches using tools such as Puppet, Chef, and Ansible
  • An open, lightweight, standardized OS with a familiar CLI across all data center network devices
  • Reduced capital and operational expenditures
  • Ability to scale the network rapidly and efficiently
  • Flexibility to mix-and-match vendor hardware without concern for interoperability issues

Recently, I had the opportunity to help one of the managers from the Enterprise Networks department on what is known in our data center as “The 10GB Rack” project.  For this project, we are using a set of racks housing our new Skype-for-Business servers, and technology from vendor Big Switch on white-box switches, as a test environment for an open networking architecture.  Getting hands-on with this project and actually deploying open networking technology has given me much better insight into how these devices work in the real world, as opposed to just conceptually.  With products such as Cumulus Linux, SDN architectures may finally enjoy more wide-spread adoption across data centers of all sizes.

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