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The future of networking is a NOS on your choice of bare metal, says Cumulus Networks

John Dix | June 24, 2014
If Cumulus Networks has its way, companies will use its Cumulus Linux to decouple the network operating system from the hardware and break free of the integrated approach that has driven the industry for decades. Network World Editor in Chief John Dix talked about the vision with Co-Founder and CEO JR Rivers.

Another place where we do work that is not necessarily network-focused but helps our network customers is around automation. So Puppet, Chef, CF engine, Nagios, Answerable, they compile their agents and build for the latest Linux distribution, and we make sure they are also built for our Linux distribution.

You only deliver software?

We don't sell any hardware. We've worked hard to help hardware partners build supply chains so the customers are able to buy hardware from them directly or through their resellers.

And what do the resultant products end being competitive with?

If you look at a Cisco product, it would be something like a Nexus 9000 or a Nexus 3132, an Arista 7050 class product.

How do you compare performance wise given you are on generic silicon?

The thing that's important to recognize is most of the technology customers are consuming today is based on industry-standard silicon, like the Broadcom Trident or Broadcom Trident II. For instance, the Cisco Nexus 9000 is based on Broadcom Trident II. Sometime in the future, customers will be able to buy a plug-in module that will add some Cisco secret sauce to the product, but they're selling a ton of that right now. But what companies are buying today is 100% industry-standard silicon. So from a performance and function perspective, all of those behaviors are available to our customers as well. The same thing is true of Arista and Juniper and Brocade and everybody else.

So your products are competitive performance wise but presumably cost less?

Exactly. And in fairness, what features get enabled and which features we think matter are going to be a little different between ourselves or a Cisco or a Juniper, and that's what differentiates us.

How do you go to market?

From a business perspective it's easier to think of us like Red Hat. Let's use Dell as an easy-to-describe model. Back in January Dell decided to open up their hardware to third-party network operating systems, like Cumulus Linux. So now customers can order a piece of Dell hardware that either has Cumulus Linux on it or comes with no operating system on it. That's the same model they use for servers. If you buy a Dell server you can buy it bare metal or with Windows Server or Red Hat Enterprise Linux or SUSE or even VMware installed. So it is up to the customer in terms of how they want to acquire the technology.

Most of our customers are service provider types. Whether they're small or large, they have an Internet-facing footprint and a service provider type business. But we have a bunch of enterprises that are in various proof-of-concepts or trials, but none that are in production right now. But they are all paying customers. They'll typically buy through a reseller.


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