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SnapRoute has introduced a network operating system for white box switches that embraces Kubernetes for network orchestration within cloud data centers.
Launched this week, SnapRoute's Cloud Native Network Operating System (CN-NOS) addresses the needs of cloud service providers that favor switching fabrics with hardware-independent network operating systems.
Within the average enterprise, however, the new cloud NOS is unlikely to supplant incumbent networking vendors in the majority of companies using integrated software and hardware.
"The general enterprise will be slower to see the value in SnapRoute," said Shamus McGillicuddy, an analyst at Enterprise Management Associates, based in Boulder, Colo.
Nevertheless, SnapRoute is betting Kubernetes will eventually win over enterprises that are reluctant to buy a stand-alone NOS. That's because companies are already using the open source software for managing Linux containers across private, public and hybrid cloud environments.
What is CN-NOS?
SnapRoute has embedded Kubernetes in CN-NOS, so DevOps teams can use it to orchestrate the operating system's many containerized network components and synchronize them with compute and storage.
Because a cloud NOS is modular, organizations can run only the network services and protocol suites needed for specific use cases and forego the rest. The approach can reduce software complexity.
"With each function isolated in a separate container, [cloud providers] can patch and update individual NOS components themselves, without taking the entire switch offline," McGillicuddy said. "This makes it easier to manage and remediate vulnerabilities and bugs in the software."
SnapRoute sells CN-NOS as a complete operating system that customers install on switches that support the Open Network Install Environment. ONIE, which is under the Open Compute Project, defines the install environment for bare-metal switches.
Once installed, CN-NOS provides full control plane and data plane functionality, according to SnapRoute. For companies that don't know Kubernetes, the vendor has included a command-line interface in the operating system.
While SnapRoute has made Kubernetes a significant piece of its cloud NOS, the technology is not the only open source network orchestration option. Alternatives include Ansible, SaltStack and Terraform.
"There are a lot of open source technologies out there that are tackling network orchestration, so I think the future is still wide open," McGillicuddy said. "Kubernetes does have a lot of momentum in the cloud-native world, however, so [SnapRoute has] placed a good bet."
Nevertheless, enterprises should pay attention to the security issues surrounding Kubernetes. Experts have advised companies to use multiple layers of defense to cover the breadth of features in the orchestration platform.
Additionally, it remains to be seen whether SnapRoute or other vendors selling a stand-alone NOS can displace traditional suppliers selling software on a proprietary box. Companies tend to be conservative when it comes to networking and prefer the safety of a trusted supplier.
But there's little question that the use of disaggregated hardware and software by cloud and service providers has had a long-lasting impact on the industry. Companies like Arista, Cisco and Juniper Networks, which have built their businesses around proprietary hardware, now sell a stand-alone NOS.