Looking to disrupt the business models of its enterprise networking rivals, Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) today unveiled an open source network operating system (NOS) with support from Accton Technology Corporation, Arista, Broadcom, Intel (INTC) and VMware (VMW).
Earlier this year HP revealed it was working with Accton Technology to develop an OpenSwitch based on a processor that HP designed and Accton would manufacture. That switch is designed to run multiple network operating systems from providers such as Cumulus Networks and Pica8. Now HP announced it is also making available its own open source network operating system on those switches.
HP Networking CTO Mark Carroll said that first step toward building a community around an open source HP NOS is the release of early code to developers who can start building applications on top of it. The end goal, said Carroll, is to deliver a full-featured NOS that supports Level 2 and 3 protocols via a common underlying database. At the same time, HP is promising that the NOS will feature open application programming interfaces (APIs) and command line interfaces (CLIs) that can be called from a variety of management frameworks, including Puppet, Chef and Ansible.
While there already are several open source NOS available on a variety of switches, having a company with the amount of market share that HP enjoys in the switching space puts more pressure than ever on its rival, Cisco Systems (CSCO). Dell and Juniper Networks already offer options that enable organizations to deploy an open source NOS. But now HP is developing an open source NOS that Carroll said will enable to organizations to build their own “differentiated white box” switches that in terms of scale will be able to match anything enabled by a commercial NOS.
Clearly, HP is trying to drive down the cost of networking primarily at the expense of Cisco. As a trend that primarily got started when web-scale companies such as Google and Facebook decided to build their own switches rather than pay commercial licensing fees, the open networking phenomenon is now spreading into an MSP community that often has to bear to brunt of network licensing fees on behalf of the customers they serve.
Naturally, the upside of having an open source NOS option is that the cost of networking services drops to the point where, at least theoretically, organizations will be able to consume more of those services. At the very least, it creates a scenario where MSPs are likely to be more profitable.
That said, getting customers to switch from a legacy network architecture to an open source NOS generally takes a lot of time and patience in a networking world where anything that is untested often is viewed with suspicion until proven otherwise.