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Open Network Linux (ONL) is an open-source, foundational platform software layer for next-generation, modular NOS architecture on open networking hardware. Networking solutions based on ONL are delivering speed, freedom and economics and have now been adopted by hundreds of data center organizations, across hyperscalers, service providers, mainstream enterprises, and SaaS/cloud providers.


Open Networking Industry Trends 

There has been a dramatic increase in the interest and adoption of open networking (white-box/brite-box) switching combined with hardware/software disaggregation. This industry trend is expected to accelerate further in the upcoming quarters. As per Gartner Research (Jan 2017), “By 2020, we expect 22% of data center Ethernet switches to be either white-box or brite-box switches, with disaggregated hardware-software stack”.

Driven by the need for speed, economics, and vendor freedom, hyperscale organizations have been at the forefront of networking software innovation by developing custom NOSs on open networking platforms. To further advance the innovation in networking, Open Compute Project (OCP) has been spearheading efforts to standardize open networking software along with hardware. OCP’s Open Network Linux is enabling organizations to rapidly innovate and build modern, modular, next-generation NOS stacks by leveraging open source software on open networking switches. Gartner Research (Jan 2017) has also predicted the continued evolution of this  trend with open-source networking software -- “By end of 2020, open-source, self-build and cloud alternatives will replace at least 20% of the enterprise data center network total addressable market by shipment, up from less than 2% currently”

Open Network Linux

ONL -- an OCP networking project -- is an open source Linux distribution, built for open networking hardware platforms with a unique architecture for pluggable 'forwarding stack’ and ‘device management & programming’ software. It acts as a foundational component for end-users who want to build their own Network Operating System (NOS) on top of open networking switches. It has been validated on 68 open networking platforms across 11 whitebox/britebox suppliers. Big Switch’s Switch Light OS, built on ONL, is deployed in hundreds of large telecom, enterprise and SaaS data centers, which has hardened ONL for production deployments.

NOS Journey towards Open, Modular Architecture

For the last two decades, innovation has been stifled in the networking industry due to monolithic, inflexible NOS architecture tied to proprietary networking hardware.

Open networking HW/SW disaggregation has enabled organizations to gain some control as they have vendor choice of both software and open networking hardware. But to gain full control and the best innovation, a modern, modular NOS architecture with pluggable NOS components is needed. Organizations today can leverage such a stack with ONL as the open-source platform layer with pluggable components for the forwarding stack and device management/programming components. With this architecture, organization can focus their innovation on the higher layers of software, while being able to readily leverage the open networking hardware ecosystem.

Benefits of Modular, Open-Source Networking Stack

Organizations who are looking to innovate with open source software can leverage an ONL-based modular, open source networking NOS stack and gain several benefits. For example:
  • SaaS, Telecom, and cloud providers can easily customize an ONL-based NG-NOS stack for their deployments and experience order of magnitude improvements in choice, agility, flexibility, cost reduction and control compared to legacy close-NOS approach.
  • Innovation-driven enterprises can leverage ONL-based NG-NOS for their digital transformation initiatives to demonstrate unprecedented agility, dramatic cost reduction and complete control through vendor-agnostic architecture.
Networking software and hardware suppliers also benefit with these advances in open source networking: 
  • Networking Software/NOS suppliers leveraging ONL and OCP switches can focus on software innovations at higher layers of the networking stack, instead of platform software to support multi-vendor open networking switch hardware
  • Switch hardware suppliers with OCP and ONL certified platforms can rapidly expand footprint with a rich set of multi-vendor NOS support, thus competing on better hardware designs and breadth of platform offerings.

ONL Certification Program                                             

Big Switch’s ONL Certification program broadens the open networking hardware partner ecosystem and further accelerates adoption of multi-vendor open networking solutions. A networking hardware partner can now choose to certify each open networking platform as ONL CertifiedTM or ONL CertifiedTM Gold. ONL Certified Gold provides ongoing testing and validation of ONL on approved platforms. At the time of program launch, HPE, Edgecore, Delta Networks, Inc (DNI), and Quanta Cloud Technologies (QCT), each have gone through the validation for multiple platforms to achieve the ONL Certified Gold status.  A complete ONL hardware compatibility list (HCL) with ONL certification status is available: https://opennetlinux.org/hcl.