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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.

Are your enterprise customers typically larger organizations?

Actually even some smaller shops. Acquiring Cumulus Linux is very similar to the way people acquire and consume servers and operating systems today. So we have really small shops that look at it, and we have big shops that look at it. On the enterprise side, right now we're not doing much outbound marketing. Everything is kind of inbound. We're talking to people that are looking for new technology that might help their businesses, like the financial houses and some of the pharmaceutical companies.

Some people use the term "white box" to describe the approach you're talking about, picking software to run on an industry standard box, but you haven't mentioned the term.

I specifically don't use the term white box because what we do doesn't fit the gross description of white box. We use the term "bare metal" because the term white box means it doesn't matter who you buy the hardware from. It's just a random spot market problem, a big commodities play. We found people care about who they buy their hardware from, they know what silicon is inside, and the supply chain is important to them. And that's why we don't call it white box.

Going back to those customers that showed early interest, the pharmaceutical guys and financial houses, how would you characterize their interest? Is it simply the cost factor or are they trying to break the shackles of their legacy suppliers?

It's kind of hard to call it one thing. What we've seen, in general, is they're looking at their current IT infrastructure and recognizing that it's not going to work for them going forward. They have made the decision that they need to own and maintain and manage some portion of their IT resources, but the old way isn't working.

So they start to look around to see who might step up as news partners. Is it going to be VMware for the virtualization space? Is it going to be OpenStack? Who is going to be my server vendor? Who do I want to use for networking? And many feel they have been trapped by Cisco for a very long time and they don't look at Cisco as being a trusted partner going forward. So they're trying to figure out when and how they can decouple themselves from lock-in.

So it's more than the cost appeal?

Well, that's what gets them started looking. Then when they decide to look at something different, they ask, what do I care about? I care about quality, I care about functionality, I care about cost, I care about automation, the types of suppliers that I want to be relating with. And we're lucky in that we can help in every one of those dimensions. So that's why it's an easy discussion to have with them. We help them on cost, help them on automation, and they like working with us.


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