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Open Compute Project Starts Receiving Open-Source Switch Designs

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(Image: A modern, DIY, open-source switch? OK, it’s really a Univac — and yeah, we took it from Wikipedia.)

In May, the Open Compute Project (OCP) announced plans to pursue the idea of an open-source switch. On Monday, that project kicked into a new gear with the first wave of designs being submitted for consideration.

The catalyst is the OCP engineering workshop happening Wednesday in San Antonio, Texas. (Another OCP workshop is scheduled for Thursday in Seoul.) As EE Times reported Monday, Broadcom, Intel, and Mellanox submitted full switch designs, while Cumulus offered its boot-loading software.

Only one switch vendor appears to have submitted a design so far, and it’s not necessarily a familiar name. Ever hear of Interface Masters Technologies?

It sounds like a supervillains’ league, but really, it’s a 16-year-old Silicon Valley switch vendor that serves mid-volume markets, providing switches for functions such as moving tap traffic to network-monitoring equipment. (The same market Gigamon pursues.)

Interface Masters even does its own manufacturing, in San Jose, Calif. “Not in the hundreds of thousands of units per year, but tens of thousands,” says Udi Yuhjtman, the company’s president.

Interface Masters is submitting a modular switch, 1 rack unit high, that supports 72 10-Gb/s ports. An alternative configuration holds 48 10-Gb/s ports and 12 40-Gb/s ports.

It’s based on a Broadcom Trident II, the chip that’s spawning a whole generation of data-center and enterprise switches that are launching this quarter. Interface Masters tells SDNCentral that it worked with Broadcom on this design, so it’s possible this is the Broadcom submission mentioned above. Broadcom isn’t disclosing specifics about its submission yet, EE Times notes.

Interface Masters’ design includes an in-line control processor (of any type, although AMD‘s happens to be in the first implementation). The processor handles functions such as network-address translation or DHCP at line rate, giving the design something that a vanilla switch wouldn’t have.

Interface Masters will add OpenFlow support to the switch in January, Yuhjtman says.

The big deal here is that the Open Compute Project wants to take white-box switching one step further by developing an open-source switch. The designs submitted today are the start of what some are hoping will be an open-source assault on the networking hardware industry.

Read more breaking news on SDNCentral:

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