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Dell Goes Brite Box with MidoNet for Open Networking

December 16, 2014

Score one for the software-defined data center: Network virtualization company Midokura has joined the Dell Open Networking initiative, giving service providers and enterprises access to an open cloud-networking infrastructure management suite that runs on Dell OpenStack. It’s a new model that Gartner says could define data center builds going forward.

The deal includes a joint go-to-market program, a reference architecture and global reseller agreement.

The Dell Open Networking Initiative is dedicated to assembling a best-of-breed, standards-based ecosystem that consists of network equipment, networking operating systems and network applications.

Within this overview, Midokura’s MidoNet software essentially facilitates network traffic flows from virtual machines to non-virtualized, physical workloads such as high-performance databases, email servers and legacy systems, at line rate. So, the software can run in tandem with Dell’s open networking switches and industry-standard x86 servers within data center environments, so that users can build, run and manage virtual, cloud-based networks using industry standards and existing infrastructure.

“What this shows is that we’re actively connecting the dots with like-minded companies to upend the traditional, black-box model of networking,” said Tom Burns, vice president and general manager at Dell Networking. “That old model is too rigid, too locked and too slow to innovate. Dell’s Open Networking initiative is about being open, flexible and software-defined to help maximize our customers’ application environments.”

This dovetails with a new networking concept that’s been given a snappy name by Gartner: “brite box” switching, which is defined as a new form of network switching that is neither the old-style of vertically integrated, single-vendor networking gear and apps, nor is it the “white-box” style of from-scratch SDN switching built upon plain vanilla hardware, which takes a deep level of expertise to implement effectively.

“Today, nearly all mainstream organizations use traditional (integrated) switches from vendors like Cisco, HP, Arista and Juniper,” said Gartner research director Andrew Lerner, in a blog.  However, the hyperscale folks [Google, Amazon, Facebook] operate in a different manner within portions of their network.  They utilize white-box switching which provides several benefits versus traditional approaches; including massive capital cost reduction (5X-7X less p/port cost), reduced vendor lock-in, and increased software flexibility/programmability. But…white-box adoption has been limited to the networking elite.”

The move by Dell is geared to fill the financial and functional gap between white-box and traditional switching, by allowing other vendors’ software to run on its hardware, in a vetted environment that makes deployment less difficult. Hence the reference architecture incorporating MidoNet, which Dell said has been already validated. This is one of the key “brite box” models that Gartner points to.

"Dell is accelerating the new software-defined infrastructure by providing enterprises the choice and economics enjoyed by mega-scale operators combined with a single-source for procurement, installation and support,” said JR Rivers, CEO and co-founder at Cumulus Networks; its Cumulus Linux acts as an operating system for open networking on the Dell platform, in a similar brite-box arrangement. “The Midokura relationship expands the breadth of offering to include the critical component of network virtualization to Dell’s Open Networking hardware and Cumulus Linux."

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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