Barefoot Networks and Apstra collaborated with the open-source SONiC switch OS at the Open Compute Summit this week. Originally developed by Microsoft, SONiC is part of the Open Compute Project (OCP).
Like other hyperscalers such as Facebook and Google, Microsoft takes components it uses in its own environment (Microsoft runs SONiC in production data centers) and builds an open source community around them.
Microsoft’s goals for SONiC are twofold: to attract developers to improve the software; and to build an ecosystem that, while available to a broader community, Microsoft can leverage for its own benefit.
Meanwhile, startups and established vendors are drawn to the initiative because it opens the door to selling to Microsoft. And if a project like SONiC attracts users outside of Microsoft (such as LinkedIn, for example), that’s more potential sales.
Barefoot Networks, which makes the programmable Tofino switch ASIC, now supports SONiC and SAI (Switch Abstraction Interface)–also originally a Microsoft project that’s found a home in the OCP–on several bare metal switches.
SAI provides a set of APIs to specify forwarding behavior of the underlying hardware. SONiC talks to SAI, which in turn interacts with a P4 program on the Tofino ASIC. P4 is an open source language Barefoot uses to define how Tofino processes packets.
Barefoot has announced three switch platforms, built by WNC and Edgecore Networks, that support SONiC. They include:
- WNC OSW1800
- Edgecore Wedge100BF-32X
- Edgecore Wedge100BF-65X
“The benefits of disaggregation and open source are clear, and the hyperscalers are taking advantage of it,” said Prem Jonnalagadda, Director of Product Management at Barefoot. “Enterprises are also tending toward that direction.”
Barefoot isn’t the only startup working with SONiC. Apstra, which sells intent-based networking software, demonstrated support for SONiC in its Apstra AOS at the Open Compute Summit. This demonstration also included switch hardware from Mellanox.
Apstra, which configures and orchestrates network infrastructure, needs to interoperate with a broad range of network software and hardware to appeal to the broadest range of customers. However, the company doesn’t fully support SONiC just yet; the Open Compute Summit was just a proof of concept demo. Apstra says official support will be announced at a later date.