Dell serves up its own disaggregated OS

Linux-based OS10 designed to meld switches, servers, storage into a software-defined data center

Dell, one of the industry’s first disaggregators, this week began an initiative to decouple its software.

The company unveiled an operating system that separates the applications and services from the base OS platform. Called OS10, Dell plans to make it its strategic operating systems offering, extending from Dell switches to also power its servers and storage products.

+MORE ON NETWORK WORLD: Enterprise disaggregation is inevitable+

OS10 is based on a native, “unmodified” Linux kernel that can support a broad range of applications and services from the Linux ecosystem, Dell officials say. Dell claims this differentiates it from Cumulus Networks’ Cumulus Linux and HP’s OpenSwitch effort for disaggregated and “open” network operating systems.

Dell has an arrangement with Cumulus, as well as Big Switch Networks, IPinfusion, Midokura and Pluribus Networks to run their software on Dell switches. Dell officials say these relationships will continue despite the introduction of OS10.

“We’ll continue to work with Cumulus,” says Tom Burns, vice president and general manager for Dell Networking and Enterprise Infrastructure. “We’ve always offered a Dell alternative” to third-party offerings.

Juniper Networks is also disaggregating its Junos operating system.

OS10 is comprised of a base module and various optional application modules separated to offer choice, control and programmability, the company says. This is an alternative to bundled and tightly-integrated, vendor-specific stacks, Dell says.

The OS10 base module is available for free and can leverage the Linux community-based contributions to aid programmability and portability. Linux can provide a common language across multiple IT layers including networking, storage and compute, Dell says.

Dell has augmented the base module with the Open Compute Project Switch Abstraction Interface (SAI), which is designed to enable a common, programmer-friendly language between vendor network operating systems and the particular silicon residing on the physical switch. SAI helps web-scale companies and cloud providers take advantage of the latest silicon by enabling them to program the switches more granularly, Dell says.

On top of the base module are the OS10 application modules. These modules include traditional Layer 2/3 networking functions and other IP, fabric, security, and management and automation tools from Dell, Linux, third-parties and the open source community.

Separation of the OS10 application modules from the base module allows customers to tailor IT operations for different use case and operational processes, Dell says.

In addition to network operations, OS10 is designed to appeal to DevOps communities seeking a consistent, common development environment across server, storage and networking elements to meld into a software-defined data center. Burns says a single IT operating system like OS10 will help eliminate complexity across the data center.

OS10 can also be the basis for Virtual Network Functions offered by service providers as CPE for customers looking for a range of easily changeable services, such as firewalls, load balancing, WAN optimization and storage, Dell says.

Dell plans to ship the OS10 base module in March. Dell-developed application modules will enter beta testing then for release later in the year. And Dell hardware platform released in the last two years will support OS10, Burns says.

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More about Big Switch NetworksCumulus NetworksDellEnterpriseHPJuniper NetworksLinux

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