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Categories: Arista Cisco Cumulus DELL EMC HPE Juniper Mellanox

If the world doesn’t need another thing, one of those things that it doesn’t need is probably another switch operating system.

@Cisco Systems, @Arista Networks, @Juniper Networks, @Big Switch Networks, @Mellanox Technologies, @Hewlett Packard Enterprise, @Dell, and @Extreme Networks all have their own, tied to their own hardware. The big #hyperscalers and #cloud builders have their own network operating systems, and Dell, HPE, and @Mellanox have open sourced their own to try to catch the #opennetwork wave that built momentum over the past few years thanks in large part to @Cumulus Networks and its #Linux-based #switch OS.

The field is not just crowded, it is moated.

So why does Arrcus, a startup that uncloaked from stealth mode recently, think it can make any inroads at all here? Particularly when everyone seemed to be thinking that an open source operating system – Dell, HPE, and Mellanox have all opened up their switch OSes to a certain extent, and the Quagga project provides an open source router – or at least one based on Linux was going to be the network OS that ruled the datacenter in the long run. As Linux is coming to dominate servers for new workloads.

“What we fundamentally want to do is give people a choice to use whitebox routers and switches with an operating system that represents what they get from the big three,” Devesh Garg, one of the company’s co-founders, tells The Next Platform. “It is more like what the big OEMs – Cisco, Arista, and Juniper – have in terms of the scale, performance, and functionality.” And ArcOS, as the company’s product is called (only on R there and an O instead of a U) is designed to be portable across all switch ASICs – at least those that Arrcus will port it to based on customer demand. So, in theory, companies could buy switches from many different vendors and run ArcOS on all of them.

Garg is no stranger to the eccentricities of the semiconductor business. During the dot-com boom and subsequent bust, Garg was general manager of the security chip business at Broadcom, which as everyone knows is the dominant supplier of merchant chips in the datacenter and has been for about a decade. Broadcom’s Trident, Tomahawk, and Jericho chips are the engines of the whitebox revolution in switching with a smattering of routing thrown in for good measure. Garg was also co-founder of Tilera, a maker of a massively parallel MIPS-inspired processor with a 2D mesh interconnect that blazed some trails, but did not take off on its own and ended up inside of EZchip, which in turn was acquired by Mellanox.

Mellanox has moved out the MIPS-alike cores on the Tilera chips and replaced them with Arm cores to create its “BlueField” processor, which it has high hopes for. EZchip bought Tilera for $170 million, which had $40 million in revenues and over 100 companies kicking the tires and using them in production at the time. Mellanox bought EZchip for $811 million in September 2015. The Mellanox deal for EZchip closed in February 2016, and that summer Garg got together with Keyur Patel, who is chief technology officer and who was a distinguished engineer at Cisco for 14 years, and Derek Yeung, who is chief architect and who spent 25 years at Cisco in various engineering leadership roles. Both are among the world’s experts on various routing protocols, including the Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) that is favored by hyperscalers and cloud builders for their hybrid switch/routing gear.