UNH-IOL promotes data center open networking interoperability with ONIE certification program

The University of New Hampshire InterOperability Laboratory (UNH-IOL) has introduced a certified Open Network Install Environment (ONIE) Logo Certification Program, reflecting a desire by data center providers to have a broader choice of open network operating systems.

Vendors that gain the ONIE Tested Logo confirms conformance to the open source initiative enabling a network switch ecosystem that provides end users a choice of network operating systems.

Set to be available in the Open Networking Test Services or as a pay-per-test service, vendor recipients of this new logo will be added to the ONIE Tested Integrators List, a central compilation of ONIE compliant solutions.

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“ONIE is almost like a contract between the hardware vendor and the network operating system (NOS) vendor,” said David Woolf, senior engineer of datacenter technologies at the UNH-IOL, in an interview with FierceTelecom. “It’s an automated way for someone to bring up bare metal hardware and find a NOS image, which is probably stored out on the network, and update it with as little user intervention as possible.”

Focus on flexibility

ONIE enables a white box network switch ecosystem where end users can choose from a variety of network operating systems. It reflects the networking industry’s move towards a disaggregated model where end users choose the best software and hardware for their mission. 

Since the platform allows any operating system to be installed and used on any white box switch, it simplifies the installation and use of a networking operating system.

Woolf said that the advent of ONIE creates flexibility for data center providers and their customers.

“What ONIE allows is people can select the hardware they want and best fits their needs, get the best price, and use the software that has the features that they most care about,” Woolf said. “It’s very easy to contrast that with the old way of doing things where you bought the hardware and you did not get to choose the software that came with it because the software was made by the same people that made the hardware so you had a one size fits all approach.”

Hardware vendors tune in

For its part, UNH-IOL has been conducting open network testing in data centers with a focus on cables, optical modules, and operating systems.

UNH-IOL has been using ONIE as one of its tools. Now the organization plans to test ONIE, publish a list of devices that pass all of these ONIE tests and provide a logo to vendors that are supporting ONIE.  

“ONIE is something that people that are deploying data centers are very interested in using because it allows them so much freedom in how they’re going to deploy their data center,” Woolf said. “Our ONIE list and ONIE logo provides confidence that this bare metal hardware will have the flexibility a user is trying to get by moving to an open solution system.”

UNH-IOL’s ONIE testing program has already attracted Edgecore Networks and Cumulus Networks, two vendors focused on providing platforms for the data center and related cloud-based network environments.

“We’re seeing interest from the bare metal switch companies,” Woolf said. “They are the ones that want to demonstrate that they can support ONIE.”

An end-user will have the flexibility to choose whatever NOS can meet their needs. ONIE will allow the data center provider to use multiple NOS elements, meaning the operator won’t have to make a new hardware investment.

Woolf said ONIE will also benefit data center providers, particularly those that rent space and equipment to business users.

“ONIE is a great tool for a company that’s renting out that hardware because the hardware can stay the same and they can change the software that sits on top of it easily and change the software their customer is going to interface with,” Woolf said. “As they move from one customer to another who wants different software, ONIE makes that transition much easier.”