Virtualization Technology News and Information
Cumulus Networks Unveils Open Standard Platform for Network Operating Systems

Cumulus Networks today announced that the Open Network Install Environment (ONIE) project, an industry standard network boot loader for installing software on network switches, has been formally accepted by the Open Compute Project (OCP) Foundation. Providing an open standards platform for network operating systems, ONIE will speed the widespread adoption of bare metal switches by making it much easier for customers to buy and deploy standards-based network hardware, dramatically reducing the overall capital and operating cost of network switches and breaking the proprietary stranglehold of traditional architectures.

"We have promoted open source since our inception and are really thrilled to contribute ONIE to the Open Compute Project," said JR Rivers, CEO and co-founder of Cumulus. "Given that Cumulus Networks' core technology is Linux, openness is built into our DNA. This is another step in our efforts to overhaul single vendor blobs and advance networking beyond the current barriers."

This open source initiative was driven by a community of next-generation networking vendors and defines an open install environment for bare metal network switches that is currently supported on a range of existing ODM switches as well as the upcoming OCP Network Switch design specification. ONIE enables an ecosystem where end users have a combination of choices among different network operating systems and a variety of compatible hardware. The use of ONIE in conjunction with software technology from companies like Cumulus Networks and Big Switch provides an unparalleled opportunity to break down traditional networking infrastructures. Other industry leaders supporting the ONIE effort include Agema, Big Switch Networks, Broadcom, Edge-Core Networks, Mellanox Technologies, Penguin Computing and Quanta.

The ONIE boot loader defines a standard method of loading network operating systems on any ONIE-compatible hardware, providing customers with the freedom to select best-in-class hardware and software combinations of their choosing. Because it is open source, customers will benefit from the community, harnessing the power of distributed innovation and ensuring a secure and supported future for ONIE-based products. ONIE brings networking into the modern "rack and stack" era, similar to Linux servers, delivering Zero-Touch Network Provisioning, lowering OPEX and promoting choice in a best-of-breed hardware and software ecosystem.

How ONIE Works

ONIE is the combination of a boot loader and a small Linux operating system for bare metal network switches that provides an environment for automated software download, installation and provisioning. As a component of the open hardware switch platform, ONIE will contribute to and advance standards that define the hardware/software interface. ONIE allows end-users and channel partners to install the target network OS as part of data center provisioning, in the fashion that servers are provisioned.

  • Combines a boot loader with a modern Linux kernel
  • Provides an environment for installing and removing any network OS
  • Eliminates lock-in from pre-installed network OS
  • Aids in the automation of large scale data center switch provisioning
The ONIE Community

ONIE development will utilize a number of strategies proven with other successful open source software projects, including:

  • Providing a central, public website for the project
  • Providing documentation, tutorials, user guides and FAQs
  • Providing an open membership mailing list for discussions, with an archive
  • Providing a moderated issue tracking system
  • Providing a public GitHub repository for the core ONIE source code. Anyone can read from the repository, but only key project members will have commit permissions
  • Leveraging existing open standards whenever possible
  • Coordinating with other groups within the OCP and other network standards bodies to drive efforts
Supporting Quotes

Open Compute Project

"Cumulus Networks' development of ONIE and their contribution of the software to the Open Compute Project are clearly demonstrations of their commitment to openness and helping the datacenter industry transition to the next level," said Frank Frankovsky, chairman and president of the Open Compute Project, and vice president, infrastructure at Facebook. "ONIE is a key step in this transition, enabling a truly open hardware ecosystem, freeing end users from captive operating systems and giving companies of all sizes a choice among different network operating systems to find what best works for their business environments."


"We are very happy to be a community member of Open Network Install Environment (ONIE) with our commitment," said Honda Wu, CEO, Agema Systems, Inc. "We believe ONIE is able to benefit end users, who have been locked in traditional proprietary switch operation systems, to achieve flexibility, scalability, efficiency and cost effectiveness, as well as their own choice of open network operation systems running on Agema's robust bare metal switches in data centers."

Big Switch Networks

"We have collaborated with Cumulus Networks on ONIE since day 1, and are excited that it was accepted by the Open Compute Project (OCP) foundation," says Mansour Karam, VP Business Development & Strategic Alliances at Big Switch Networks. "ONIE comes already loaded on bare metal switches from a number of vendors, which are available through a network of distributors in the US. It is a key component of the disaggregated network architecture, allows choice of hardware and network operating systems, and enables Big Switch's Zero Touch Networking capability."


"ONIE allows multiple operating systems to be loaded by the end user on a switch, allowing for the proliferation of an open ecosystem and promoting further innovation," said Sujal Das, Broadcom director of product marketing, Network Switch. "ONIE complements the Broadcom-developed Open Network Switch Specification published by the Open Compute Project community and showcases the support of both companies for an open networking ecosystem."

Edge-Core Networks

"Edge-Core Networks delivers data center switches supporting a choice of switch OS and SDN software alternatives for enterprise, big data, and service provider customers to build public and private cloud network infrastructures," said Min Chao, President of Edge-Core Networks. "Our hardware switches ship with the Open Network Install Environment (ONIE) to allow customers to automate their network infrastructure with Cumulus Linux switch OS software today and to support additional choices of switch OS software in the future."

Mellanox Technologies

"ONIE and OCP are important projects that help drive the global initiative of Open Ethernet - all of which are greatly supported by Mellanox," said Gilad Shainer, vice president of marketing at Mellanox Technologies. "Open Ethernet enables separation between Ethernet switch hardware and software to provide improved benefits and flexibility for data center users and IT managers, enabling them to choose the right switch and software platforms that best meet their business goals. Mellanox's Open Ethernet-based switch platforms with support for ONIE provide the highest throughput and extremely low latency. We will continue our efforts and collaboration with Cumulus Networks to enhance ONIE capabilities."

Penguin Computing

"In the world of network switches, open architectures are evolving that give customers more choice and flexibility at lower cost," said Charles Wuischpard, CEO Penguin Computing. "An open, standardized installation framework will accelerate adoption of these architectures. ONIE has become this standard and we are excited to be one of the founding members of this initiative."


"Customers want choices when it comes to configuring the networking layer of their cloud datacenters," said Mike Yang, general manager of Quanta QCT. "By participating in ONIE, we're giving our customers unprecedented network layer agility. They can choose the right software to support the switching fabrics that their applications demand, with products designed, manufactured and supported by the leader in cloud datacenter hardware."

For more information about ONIE, visit

For more information about Cumulus Networks, visit

Published Monday, November 11, 2013 6:26 PM by David Marshall
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