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Dell Unlocks New Era for Open Networking, Decouples Hardware and Software

Dell today demonstrated game-changing support for open networking by becoming the first global end-to-end technology company to provide customers, including cloud providers and Web 2.0 companies, a choice of third-party operating systems, tailoring networks for their specific application needs. In this effort, Dell announced a re-seller agreement with Cumulus Networks - maker of the first Linux operating system for bare-metal networking devices - to support a new disaggregated networking model for its fixed-configuration switches.

New Era for Open Networking - Disaggregated Networking Model

Dell’s vision of the new data center networking model is an open ecosystem in which customers can choose among various industry-standard networking gear, network applications and network operating systems to meet their business needs.

For the past 20 years, data center networks were a three-tier proprietary hierarchy built for pre-virtualized, client-server implementations using chassis-based switches.

New dynamics brought on by software-defined networking, virtual machine mobility, shifting networking patterns from North-South to East-West, cloud computing, resource pooling and the need for server-like automation led Dell to help pioneer an Ethernet fabric model using fixed-form factor switches. Industry analysts at Gartner cite:

  • Ethernet fabric is best-positioned to address the demands of simplifying and automating physical switch networks encountered by network professionals in the immediate future.1
  • Newer small form factor core devices can enable network managers to reduce capital costs by 30 percent to 70 percent, and save 30 percent or more on operations expenses, compared with chassis-based switches.2

The disaggregated networking model is a further step in Dell innovation on the software side. Benefits and value of this networking model include:

  • Best-of-breed networking for workloads, application and other networking needs including orchestration, automation and monitoring;
  • Consistent compute and networking with a common deployment and operational model; and,
  • Leverage of open source data center solutions with rapid standards-based innovation.

Dell and Cumulus Networks Help Businesses Embrace Open Networking

Dell announced a reseller agreement with Cumulus Networks as its first partner in an ecosystem to fill a critical gap in realizing the true promise of the software-defined data center. Dell will begin offering Cumulus® Linux® network OS as an option for its Dell Networking S6000 and S4810 top-of-rack switches.

Dell and Cumulus Networks create the following customer benefits:

  • Fast – High-capacity fabrics, unprecedented price-performance, rapid innovation;
  • Easy – Simplified network automation, consistent tools for network and compute, flexible solutions; and,
  • Affordable – Help lower operational and capital expenditures, breaking free from vendor lock-in, joining a large ecosystem of Linux applications.

Dell provides the support of a trusted brand including:

  • Award-winning Ethernet switches with modern, fixed-form factor architectures;
  • Complete data center solution with common acquisition, deployment and operational model from single vendor for server, storage and networking – global distribution and fulfillment;
  • Global services with a single point of contact and accountability; and,
  • Networking expertise in pre- and post-sales scenarios including planning, deployment and support services

Supporting Quotes

  • “This is a great example of innovation coming from the new Dell. Networking is an industry crying out for disruption. We’ve done this before with PCs and servers, putting us in the best position to offer a choice of network operating systems,” said Tom Burns, vice president and general manager, Dell Networking. “Networks are like human minds - they work better when open.”
  • “Dell is fundamentally changing the nature of the networking business, and this partnership with Cumulus Networks represents a definitive step towards disaggregating hardware and software,” said JR Rivers, co-founder and CEO of Cumulus Networks. “In this new open, multi-vendor ecosystem that’s becoming all the more prevalent, the customer finally gets to choose exactly the components they need to build the software-defined datacenter of the future without having to worry about vendor lock-in.”
  • “This is a market development that we suspected might happen,” said Brad Casemore, research director, Datacenter Networks, IDC. “Cloud-service providers and large-enterprise customers are thoroughly evaluating alternatives to their traditional datacenter network infrastructure. Dell has chosen to position itself as a strong proponent of disaggregation of network hardware and software, while Cumulus Networks has struck a partnership with a major vendor to gain favorable exposure in more customer accounts. This announcement is emblematic of an eventful period in datacenter networking, and such alliances will become increasingly important as developments such as network disaggregation reconfigure industry ecosystems.”


Dell expects to begin offering switches with Cumulus® Linux® network OS in first quarter of its fiscal year in 2014.

Additional Information:

  • Dell Blog: From Tom Burns, vice president and general manager, Dell Networking
  • Video: Tom Burns and JR Rivers, co-founder and CEO, Cumulus Networks, discuss today’s news
  • Dell Networking on Twitter and Facebook

About Dell

Dell Inc. listens to customers and delivers innovative technology and services that give them the power to do more. For more information, visit www.dell.com.

The registered trademark Linux® is used pursuant to a sublicense from LMI, the exclusive licensee of Linus Torvalds, owner of the mark on a world-wide basis.

1 Gartner, Inc., “Emergence of Ethernet Fabric Will Push Users to Rethink Their Data Center Physical Switch Networks” by Evan Zeng and Naresh Singh, October 2013.

2 Gartner, Inc., “Right Sizing the Enterprise Data Center Network” by Mark Fabbi and Caio Misticone, March 2013.

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