IP Infusion has been around for a while, but the conversation in the industry about white box networking is bringing what IP Infusion does to the main stage. They’ll be presenting at Networking Field Day 15, and I’m looking forward to hearing how they’re progressing in this space.
I think it’s important to go over some terms before we introduce IP Infusion’s solution.
White box refers to the use of commercially available off the shelf network hardware typically making use of merchant silicon and a disaggregated network operating system. Sometimes the vendor of the hardware and operating system are the same, but more often than not, white box refers to the ability to use hardware from one vendor and the network operating system from another.
Merchant silicon is the term used to refer to commercially available off the shelf chip components. This is opposed to custom chips developed by the vendor and therefore typically sold at a premium.
This has been a discussion in the networking industry for years but only in recent days have we been hearing reports of some of our favorite webscale companies utilizing this method at scale in their data centers.
Because most network functions are standardized, we can get away with buying cheap hardware using merchant silicon since the real benefit lies in the software, not necessarily the metal we mount in the rack. This means a major benefit of white box networking is cost savings.
Another benefit is the freedom to select what software we’d like to run on what hardware. This also results in a lower total cost of ownership and a greater ability to customize network components.
Also in terms of customization, disaggregating software and hardware using white box networking can provide engineers highly customizable interfaces to fit whatever particular requirement they have.
IP Infusion doesn’t sell boxes. They developed their own network operating systems that can be installed on other vendors’ gear or in a virtual environment. ZebOS, an established, standards-based layer 2 and layer 3 platform, is the foundation for IP Infusion’s solutions and has been around for some time now.
The two network operating systems built on ZebOS are OcNOS and VirNOS.
IP Infusion explains that OcNOS is a full-featured NOS for white box bare metal switches and is a full-featured solution providing advanced capabilities including SDN. To be honest, I don’t really know what that last part means. I downloaded the product brief for OcNOS and read that it supports a CLI, SNMP, REST, NETCONF, and SAF IMM-OI. They explain OcNOS is SDN and NFV ready with support for OpenFlow and APIs to enable end users to write their own functions to program the control and data planes. Is this what they mean by “SDN-ready”?
I’m very interested to go down this path more in person in order to really dig into how they define “programmable network operations” and how they enable it for a network operator.
VirNOS is also built on the ZebOS platform and provides a software solution to be deployed as virtual machines. Network services are then completely virtualized by VirNOS which runs on a wide range of switch and storage hardware. This provides a method to deliver distributed and/or tenant-based network functions required especially in data centers and cloud providers.
The questions for me will be about programmability and how IP Infusion differentiates itself from other NOS vendors.
Check out their website to learn more and to download some of their literature. I was a little annoyed that I had to fill in a form to read each product brief, but I filled them in and was able to get a good idea of their products.
Also make sure to tune into Networking Field Day 15 this April 13 – 15 on Tech Field Day’s YouTube channel and by following #NFD15 on twitter.