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Cumulus Linux, NetQ available for Lenovo RackSwitch

The combination of Lenovo RackSwitch models with Cumulus Linux and NetQ monitoring software is aimed at companies that prefer open networking in the data center.

Cumulus Networks has made its Linux-based network operating system available for Lenovo's ThinkSystem top-of-rack switches. Cumulus also introduced this week a version of its network troubleshooting software, called NetQ, for the open hardware.

Cumulus said the products are ready to deploy on three ThinkSystem RackSwitch models. They include the 1GBASE -T Ethernet NE0152TO, the 25 Gigabit Ethernet NE2572O and the 100 GbE NE10032O. Cumulus offers its network operating system (NOS) for other open switch makers, including Lenovo rival Dell EMC.

Companies can buy Cumulus Linux and NetQ from Cumulus and the hardware from Lenovo. Combined systems are available from Lenovo resellers.

Lenovo RackSwitch runs network operating systems that support the open source Open Network Install Environment. ONIE, developed by Cumulus in 2012 and adopted by the Open Compute Project a year later, defines the install environment for bare-metal switches.

Lenovo plans to let more companies offer network operating systems for RackSwitch hardware next year. Lenovo also sells the top-of-rack switches with its Cloud Network Operating System.

Cumulus is selling NetQ for RackSwitch separately from the operating system. Released in 2017, NetQ uses software agents to gather data from switches running the Cumulus NOS and servers running Ubuntu or Red Hat Enterprise Linux. The agents stream information on all events that could affect network state to a virtualized Redis database that companies run on the hardware of their choice.

Through NetQ's command-line interface, network operators can look up, for example, the location of containers on servers, the protocols in use, and the configuration of network overlays and switches.

Cumulus Linux strengths, weaknesses

Forrester Research recommends Cumulus products for companies that have data centers and operations heavily based on Linux. Cumulus software will help those businesses "harness efficiencies with a consistent development approach," according to a Forrester Wave report released in the first quarter.

In July, Gartner reported in its Magic Quadrant that Cumulus had more than 500 enterprise customers using its products for data center networking. The vendor caters to "forward-leaning organizations that prefer a high degree of automation," the research firm said.

Cumulus drawbacks include not having complete and ready-to-use fabric software to manage multiple switches as a single construct, Gartner said. The vendor also lacks a graphical user interface for network visibility.

Pica8 NOS on Dell EMC hardware

In other open networking news, Pica8 announced its Linux-based PICOS NOS is available for Dell EMC's S4100 series of open networking switches. The 10 GbE campus aggregation hardware supports ONIE for installation of PICOS.

Pica8 has already ported its operating system to Dell EMC's N3000-ON series of access switches. As a result, a company can use Dell EMC hardware and Pica8 software to deploy a leaf-spine switching architecture in a campus or branch office. Pica8 also sells switch orchestration and management software, called PicaPilot, which is optional.

Dell EMC's S4100-ON series has a starting price of $860 for a 24-port perpetual license, according to Pica8.

Dell EMC and Hewlett Packard Enterprise are among the largest vendors that sell open switches that can run operating systems from multiple software providers. Nevertheless, the majority of enterprises continue to buy mostly proprietary hardware and software from incumbent networking vendors, analysts said.

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