News & Insights for the AI Journey|Friday, April 19, 2019
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Open Compute Expands Switch Offerings 

The networking branch of the Open Compute Project announced a pair of new standard switches this week along with plans in the upcoming year to focus on faster networking hardware and moving software development beyond lower layers while expanding testing.

The networking group announced on Monday (Nov. 2) two new OCP switches from member Mellanox (NASDAQ: MLNX) that feature new silicon. The switches also support several OCP software projects, including its switch abstraction interface (SAI) and the Open Network Installment Environment (ONIE).

Since last October, the group has certified several switch designs, including 10G and 40G devices from Alpha Networks along with Accton Open Rack Switch Adapter. The new Mellanox switches include 10G and 40G devices based on SwitchX-2 silicon.

"What differentiates these switches is that they are the first to feature a different switching silicon: SwitchX-2 by Mellanox," OCP networking project co-leaders Omar Baldonado and Carlos Cardenas noted in a blog post. "Prior contributions by Accton and Alpha have been based on the Trident2 family by Broadcom." The additions to the OCP networking lineup means "we're diversifying our set of open networking hardware on the market," they added.

In the works is another Accton switch based on Cavium's 32x100G device. The project leaders said that switch is being reviewed by OCP along with shared switches from Broadcom (NASDAQ: BRCM) and partner Interface Masters as well Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) and Inventec Corp. of Taiwan (TPE: 2356).

On the networking software side, the group reported that ONIE has been accepted "across dozens of switch platforms" and is being leveraged in interoperability testing. Meanwhile, switch abstraction interface software was demonstrated across networking chips from Broadcom, Cavium (NASDAQ: CAVM) and Mellanox. Mellanox also demonstrated the interface software working on its 100G chip, the group reported.

In addition, the group leaders said OpenNetLinux was demonstrated on top of the Facebook Wedge switch as the social media giant and OCP founder increases adoption of the open-source networking software.

The networking group also is reviewing a separate Hewlett Packard Open Switch effort that "has the potential to introduce an open Network Operating System that can run on OCP hardware switches," Baldonado and Cardenas claimed.

Network hardware and software testing efforts that include test equipment configurations also have been stepped up this year to include systems, optics and software.

In the coming year the groups expects to introduce faster switching speeds while attempting to speed adoption of OCP-certified network chips. Meanwhile, it plans to focus its software development efforts higher in the stack, including orchestration, provisioning and automation capabilities.

Facebook, which had been using custom server designs it created in conjunction with Dell, joined with other big datacenter operators to launch OCP several years ago as a mechanism for developing approaches to open sourcing hardware designs. The goal is to drive innovation in servers, storage, switches, and datacenters while reducing infrastructure cost.

Since then, financial services giants like Goldman Sachs and Fidelity Investments have backed the effort as they seek to deploy OCP technologies in their datacenters. Fidelity hosted the most recent OCP networking project workshop.

About the author: George Leopold

George Leopold has written about science and technology for more than 30 years, focusing on electronics and aerospace technology. He previously served as executive editor of Electronic Engineering Times. Leopold is the author of "Calculated Risk: The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom" (Purdue University Press, 2016).

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