Advanced Computing in the Age of AI | Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Dell Moves to Push SDN to the Cloud 

Dell said this week it is partnering with up-and-coming software-defined networking specialist Pluribus Networks to accelerate SDN adoption in the cloud.

The partners said Thursday (June 11) they would seek to speed SDN deployment by demonstrating that its value extends beyond disaggregation of hardware and software. Dell also hopes to burnish its reputation for open networking by porting the Pluribus Linux operating system onto its family of 10G/40G switches.

Pluribus Networks, Palo Alto, Calif., touts its Netvisor distributed network hypervisor operating system as an open application platform. The platform is intended to converge computing, networking, storage and virtualization in datacenters.

These attributes are seen as a way to boost SDN adoption in the cloud. "Cloud providers need security, monitoring and virtualization built in at the architectural level to enable them to compete with Amazon Web Services and other hyper-scale cloud providers," Pluribus Networks CEO Kumar Srikantan, asserted in a statement announcing the partnership and distribution agreement.

The Dell-Pluribus Networks deal is another indication that SDN technology may at last be making inroads in the datacenter networking market. The partners attribute the momentum to an open networking approach that leverages Linux plug-and-play and other attributes.

The deal also lends credence to market forecasts last year predicting that SDN deployments would begin to pick up this year despite lingering concerns over whether the technology is ready for primetime. For example, Infonetics Research reported last July that 87 percent of North American-based enterprises it surveyed expected to deploy SDN in their datacenters and campus networks by 2016.

The market researcher also predicted that laboratory trials would give way to live production deployments of SDN technologies this year.

Among the barriers to SDN deployment are lingering concerns about potential network interruptions and lack of interoperability with existing networking equipment, especially physical switches. Dell's "open networking" approach to network switching along with its emphasis on disaggregation of networking hardware and software appears designed in part to address SDN skepticism among datacenter operators.

Dell's intention is to show "how multiple operating systems can now offer our customers choices that complement our open hardware solutions," noted Tom Burns, general manager of Dell networking and converged infrastructure unit.

Still, Infonetics found that SDN proponents face an uphill battle convincing potential enterprise customers that the technology can serve as a cornerstone of future hybrid cloud deployments. The market researcher reported that leveraging SDN as a way of "enabling hybrid cloud" finished "dead last" on its list of datacenter technology drivers.

Still, the open architecture approach to SDN development is attracting the attention of technology investors. Pluribus Networks announced a $50 million funding round in January. With total venture funding at $95 million, the company claims to be among the best-funded SDN vendors.

Pricing and other details on Netvisor Linux running on Dell's networking switches will be available in the third quarter of 2015, the partners said.

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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