Cumulus Networks writes its name on a white box

Badge engineering to make open networking easier for newcomers

Open networking operating system vendor Cumulus Networks is about to start selling hardware – but it's not going to start actually making the stuff.

Rather, the maker of the Cumulus Linux distribution has decided to give new users an easy entry-level purchase by installing and configuring its operating system on bare-metal switches from one of its partners, Edge-Core Networks.

Its Cumulus Express will be available pre-loaded on Edge-Core switches from 1 Gbps to 100 Gbps, with a list of certified cables and optics for customers to help them avoid getting caught by unexpected incompatibilities.

Josh Leslie, now CEO after founding CEO JR Rivers became CTO, told The Register's networking desk the company wants to let customers take a “known good, tested system” without giving up the “white-box” nature of Cumulus Linux.

Certified and pre-configured systems from other partners, from Dell, HP and Mellanox down, won't change, he said.

When customers are investigating open networking, they don't want to have to choose which vendor they're buying from: “they want to get it simple, plug it in and go, and get benefit from the software stack”, he said.

The risk of incompatibilities in complex systems is a “double-edge sword” for a Linux distribution, Leslie said: “We give our customers an extraordinary amount of choice, there's choice of silicon, hardware, monitoring tools, and we allow them to modify the system.”

That's fine for the advanced user but not for the newcomer, he said – and as time passes, there are fewer issues to deal with.

“The software stack's six years old, in the world of operating systems it's pretty mature by now,” he said, “and because we're using Linux, we get to leverage the universe of people that are trying different software/hardware packages with our system. Compatibility is not simple, but it's something we have a grasp of.”

An offering like Cumulus Express also helps customers get homogeneity in their infrastructure: “to penetrate a Fortune 100 account, you have to get inserted in a new application, and grow with that application over time.” ®

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