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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.

You mentioned VXLAN and software-defined networking in passing. Has that changed your game at all?

I would say it helps. A lot of customers have built very brittle infrastructure around large Layer 2 domains based on decades-old Cisco technology and now want to break free from it. So they want to use network virtualization and network function virtualization as a way to make their data centers less brittle, more fluid and easier to automate. And because VXLAN is an important construct and because it's built into Linux and it becomes really easy to automate around, it means we're able to partner with the overlay providers so they're able to use our equipment.

I noticed VMware is a partner of yours. Are you taking from them or are they taking from you, or is it a two-way street?

Kind of a two-way street. They're focused on the workflow orchestration, managing customers as a business, deploying an application along with VM storage, network interconnect, firewalls, load balancers, routers, all that sort of thing. And so VXLAN is a key construct for them. They set up a partner program and reached out to pretty much everybody in the network industry, and said, "Hey, this is how we want to interact with your VXLAN-capable devices."

So in our case we ended up with an agent that lives on the platform and terminates communications with the VMware controller and creates and destroys VXLAN based under its control. So it's a pretty easy-to-use protocol. That partnership was, on the technical side, like a three-week exercise, and then the legal and go-to-market side was longer because they were waiting for their launch. We had a similar relationship with Midokura, and we're working on the same thing with Nuage. It's really pretty easy to automate around VXLAN using this platform.

Who do you compete with?

Our biggest competitor is Cisco, second biggest is Arista and third biggest is Juniper.

What's your biggest challenge going forward? Is it convincing people that you're a realistic alternative?

If you had to pick the biggest one, it would be that. And obviously there's a lot of nuance to that statement. There's longevity, there's knowing somebody that's been using the technology for a year and has no problems with it. There are people singing your praises, people talking about their operational cost savings, people talking about how easy it's been to work with you. It's earning your spot on the team.

Some of your story sounds similar to the story told by Vyatta. Do you see them in the market?

They were acquired by Brocade and we do see them. They seem to be very focused on the network function virtualization business at this point. Early on they had a somewhat similar perspective, but it was a little bit twisted in that they started off looking at the branch router space, recognizing you could use an x86 server as a branch router.


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