Nymble is new switch management software from Pica8. Nymble can automate, configure, and perform other management functions for switches running PICOS, the Linux-based network OS (NOS) from Pica8.
Pica8 targets the campus and access markets, and its NOS runs on a variety of switch hardware, including boxes from Dell EMC, HPE, and whitebox vendors such as Edgecore Networks. Nymble will work with PICOS regardless of the hardware provider.
In addition to the Nymble software, Pica8 has also announced that Dell EMC will run PICOS on four new hardware platforms, including a model running Broadcom’s Trident 3 silicon.
Automation, Configuration, Imaging, Licensing
The Nymble software lets network engineers perform four major functions with PICOS switches: automation, configuration, imaging, and licensing.
On the automation front, Nymble incorporates a free version of Ansible and includes ready-to-use playbooks to automate common tasks such as turning up switches, configuring VLANs, and running health checks.
Customers can also activate an advanced mode to write their own playbooks, or contract with Pica8 for playbooks.
The configuration manager is a utility that lets engineers or administrators define and deploy standard configurations to PICOS switches across the campus. Similarly, the image manager lets administrators keep multiple image files for each switch model in their network.
The license manager tracks PICOS licenses and their expiration dates, and provides a network-wide inventory of installed switches.
Nymble is available as a virtual image that runs on a server on the customer’s premises. The company says customers could also run Nymble in the public cloud, and it’s working on its own cloud-based version.
Nymble works with all versions of PICOS and is available now.
New Dell EMC Platforms
In addition to the Nymble software, Pica8 has announced that its NOS now runs on four additional Dell EMC boxes, bringing to total number of Dell-supported platforms to an even dozen.
The new models are:
- Z9264F-ON (Campus aggregation)
- S5248F-ON (Campus aggregation)
- S4128F-ON (Campus aggregation)
- N3024EP-ON (PoE+ access switch)
Automation has been all the rage in the data center, but vendors are turning their attention to the campus. For instance, Cisco positions its SD-Access platform as a campus fabric that unifies monitoring, management, and policy enforcement at the wired and wireless layers.
Extreme Networks has its own Automated Campus play, which incorporates Fabric Connect from its Avaya portfolio and promises unified wired/wireless management.
We’ve also seen campus initiatives from Arista and Juniper Networks, both of which acquired WLAN startups to get deeper hooks into the wireless access layer, and both of which announced new campus switches.
And of course Aruba has long offered wireless and wired gear and management tools.
Clearly, Pica8 recognizes that if it wants to be serious in the campus, it must provide or enable automation.
I think it’s smart for Pica8 to take advantage of Ansible because, I presume, if you’re adopting a Linux-based network OS, your teams are probably comfortable with open-source tooling and operations.
The Grand Unified Campus Theory
However, one potential issue for Pica8 is that it just sells switches.
Most of its campus competitors either have, or are assembling, a soup-to-nuts portfolio of wireless APs, access and campus core switches, cloud-based controllers and management systems, NAC platforms, and analytics capabilities.
The promise of these portfolios is a grand unified campus that includes onboarding and provisioning, identity and application-based policy enforcement, unified wired and wireless management, automated troubleshooting and self-healing, plus deep visibility and analytics, all run from a fabled single pane of glass.
This is a compelling story. I’m skeptical than any single vendor can deliver, but that won’t stop them from telling the tale.
Pica8 will have to be clever (or dare I say nimble) in constructing its own compelling narrative about its value, and how it will integrate with third-party campus automation schemes.