Today, I’m excited to share with you all a significant advancement in the world of Open Networking, as we make foundational contributions to the newly announced Software for Open Networking in the Cloud (SONiC), part of the Open Compute Project (OCP).  Dell is working closely with Microsoft Azure and other leader industry players including Broadcom and Mellanox  to open source all the components needed to build fully-functional networking software. SONiC is a collection of software packages/modules that can be installed on Linux on a network hardware switch which makes it a complete, functional router.  Dell will be contributing its recently announced OS10 base software to serve as foundational elements for SONiC. This is a tremendous vote of confidence for OS10 and the approach we’ve taken to disaggregate the network stack. 

Project Background

SONiC builds off the Switch Abstraction Interface (SAI) that a consortium of tech leaders including Dell, Micorsoft, Broadcom and Mellanox contributed at last year’s OCP Summit. SAI enables a common language between vendor network operating systems (NOS) and the particular silicon residing on the physical switch. Since then, SAI has progressed significantly to enable both cloud and enterprise grade functionalities and continues to act as a catalyst for the Open Networking movement.  As we continued to innovate, we felt the importance of unlocking every component that makes up the networking software in addition to SAI for fostering open and collaborative environment for cloud and enterprise customers.

Validation of Open Networking

At Dell, we see SONiC as an expression of Open Networking, giving the initiative significant credibility in its ability to help customers employ the resources of the open source community to innovate and experiment without compromising on security, quality, programmability and portability. SONiC also provides the flexibility to scale the software functionality up or down and develop features based on the customer's unique networking needs. In the recent past, we have witnessed open source software such as ONIE being adopted by more and more vendors, and we believe that this effort would also provide greater opportunity for the community to innovate together.


SONiC High Level Software Design


The above diagram represents the high level architecture of SONiC and its components. Currently, in addition to contributing the platform driver code, Dell is proud to have contributed to additional fundamental components such as SDI, PAS, Object Library API and Switch State Service. In addition to that, the collaborative effort with Microsoft and Mellanox resulted in showcasing Layer 3 and ACL applications using SONiC infrastructure. Visit the github site for more information on SONiC architecture and other related documentation.

OS10 Contribution from Dell

Earlier this year, Dell announced its Operating System 10 (OS10), a next-generation networking software system designed to introduce new levels of software flexibility and programmability in large-scale data center environments. The OS10 software environment advances the functionality of modern data centers by disaggregating network software, so customers have more choice in how software is used throughout IT operations. OS10 is comprised of a base layer of unmodified Linux with various optional application modules on top.

Dell is contributing elements of its OS10 Base software to the SONiC project and will seek alignment and feature parity between future releases of OS10 Base software and SONiC software. The underlying architecture provides the building blocks for features including:

  • Hardware abstraction through common APIs
  • Consistency across compute and network resources 
  • A simple transition to open networking
  • Full programmability



Contributions from Dell OS10 to SONiC


We were able to leverage much of the hardened OS10 base components towards the SONiC effort due to the overarching similarity in fundamental design elements. 


SONiC is envisioned to be used in Microsoft Azure, and we expect to see more cloud providers adopt SONiC into their data centers. With Dell and other collaborators delivering several enterprise feature improvements to SAI, and SAI being the building block for SONiC, it is easy for enterprise customers to also realize its potential for their networking needs. Overall, this would enable customers to focus their energy and resources on application development rather than the underlying infrastructure.  

Dell has been a strong advocate of disaggregating software and hardware, thereby empowering customers by enabling them to step away from monolithic vendor-locked options. We foresee several interesting partnerships around SONiC in the coming months. Be sure to watch out for those developments here on the blog and by following us on Twitter.

UPDATE: For more on our collaboration with Microsoft, see this follow-up blog on Dell's contributions to key building blocks of the SONiC architecture.